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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!

6936 reviews in the archive.

Tailpieces: Golden Gate adjustable Presto style

Submitted by mainejohn on 10/25/2016

Where Purchased: SFI

Overall Comments

Golden Gate needs to pay more attention to design and quality control.:

1. There were no grooves for the strings to sit in, and it was very difficult to keep the 1st and 4th strings from popping out sideways as I was tightening them.

2. The "flapper" would not close completely

3. The hole for the third string is smaller and in a slightly different place than the original Prestos.

4. The plating under the flapper was flawed.

I returned it to Bob Smakula the next day for credit. He was very responsive when I reported the problem. Not his fault that this tailpiece is junk.

Overall Rating: 1

Orpheum: 1915 No. 1

Submitted by mainejohn on 4/30/2009

Where Purchased: Private swap for my guitar

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


A sweet, but slightly thin sound (compared to my Vegas)...not alot of volume, and I've got plectrum light strings(it's a plectrum)

Sound Rating: 7


I set it up. It came with a head that was 1/16" too large, so I replaced it with a Remo 11 1/8 frosted inside. I shimmed the neck at the heel with a 1/16" piece of ebony veneer

Setup Rating: 3


It is in excellent condition for a 90 year old banjo...original frets, straight neck, no tarnish or rust, all original friction tuners and Elite tailpiece.

Appearance Rating: 10


I wouldn't gig with it...too delicate and not loud enough, and I don't like to gig with friction tuners

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service


Customer Service: not rated


The hardware is excellent...looks brand new, but is all original. I don't like the Elite tailpiece, and may install something more substantial if I can do it without modifyling the dowel lag screw.

Components Rating: not rated

Overall Comments

I prefer Vegas from this period as they sound better and just feel more substantial. I'd say it's worth what the guy I swapped with paid for it($450)

Overall Rating: 8

Vega: Artist plectrum

Submitted by mainejohn on 5/31/2008

Where Purchased: Jack O'Brien/ Jaffrey NH

Year Purchased: ca 2002
Price Paid: $1200 (bought USED) historic exchange rates / currency converter


I have three other tubaphones and for whatever reason I like the sound of this the least. Its just to bright for me, and lacks that "Vega sweet, rich sound" that I hear on my others.

Sound Rating: 7


I refinished it, only because it had been previously refinished and looked as if it appeared to have been dipped in molasses. I had the gold replated a couple of months ago., and its beautiful, but the neck is thinner than I'm used to, the frets aren't original, and, as a result, I don't play it as much as my other plecs.

Setup Rating: 5


Its a beauty now that I've refinished it and replated it. The wood, heel carving, and inlays are exquisite.

Appearance Rating: 9


I'd use it on a gig if I wanted to show off a beauty. Otherwise, I'd play my 60's PB250 or my 20's Whyte Laydie.

Reliability Rating: 7

Customer Service

Jack O'Brien is a one man operation, and arguably the best all-around luthier in New England.

Customer Service: 10


NO....they are are all original parts except the tailpiece (Richelieu), and the tuners (5 Star)

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

I take it out and look at it once and awhile because its so pretty. Otherwise, it stays in the case. I'd sell or trade if the situation presented itself.
addendum 7/1/08: Just sold it on ebay to a fellow in Seattle

Overall Rating: 8

Deering: Deering/Vega Longneck

Submitted by mainejohn on 3/5/2008

Where Purchased: Acoustic Outfitters, Stratham NH

Year Purchased: 2000
Price Paid: 2025 ($US)


The sound is unique. It's louder and brighter than a vintage Vega tubaphone...not quite as "old-timey", yet well suited for folk music.

Sound Rating: 10


Fairly well, although I needed to lower the acion a big deal.

Setup Rating: 8


I would have preferred a vintage maple rather than the chocolate brown. I was disappointed in the fact that the peghead overlay was very rough where it meets the nut. Gary, the AOMC owner fixed it himself rather than send it back. I also upgraded all 5 of the tuners, as they were sticky, and upgraded the tailpiece, the cover of which broke off.

Appearance Rating: 6


The finish after 8 years has held up well.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

I emailed my initial concerns to Deering, and they never responded other than with boilerplate. Gary, at AOMC, the dealer in NH where I bought it new was extremely helpful. It's warranted to me as long as I own it. Deering cust serv: 2 Dealer cust serv: 10

Customer Service: 5


Aforementioned tuners were cheap, probably Schallers. I upgraded to 4 Keiths and an old Kroll 5th.

Components Rating: 2

Overall Comments

For the price I paid, I would recommend it. The list price, however is very inflated. I think it's now arond $4700. I also have a vintage Vega longneck, and I switch back and forth. They are both excellent, but sound different.

Overall Rating: 9

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