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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!

7076 reviews in the archive.

Chuck Waldman: Wood-O-Phone

Submitted by Kermitthehermit on 1/29/2015

Where Purchased: Gryphon Strings

Year Purchased: 2014
Price Paid: 1495 ($US)


This is a standard scale five string with an 11" cherry rim, raw brass hardware, Renaissance head and No-Knot. The ring is made up of an assortment of hardwoods forming a perforated tube that shows through the head. I don't care for that, but the tone is great so the head stays.

Played anywhere above the head the sound is just average, but played over the scoop it becomes rich, resonant and surprisingly loud with a moderate amount of sustain. I wanted a woody, warm and organic sound free of metallic overtones for my stock Folk/Ragtime/Blues amalgam and the Waldman nails it.

Sound Rating: 10


Gryphon included a setup in the price that involved putting on heavier strings and reslotting the nut and saddle as needed. They did nice work and I would buy from them again.

I replaced the stock 5/8" bridge with a German-made maple/ebony 1/2". Now the action is comfortably low, yet buzz-free.

Setup Rating: 9


The design is simple and beautiful. The cherry pot gives the banjo a color that stands out from the crowd and the head has a classic shape. The ebony fretboard and peghead veneer is thick, and the back of the peghead has a dark brown veneer that extends down onto the neck and tapers off, which makes the head and neck look integrated. The fret markers are attractive and large diamonds, but there are only three of them, which looks a little odd. The Waldman lacks the flash of my less expensive Eastman Fairbanks Whyte Laydie reproduction, but I'm not complaining.

Appearance Rating: 9


The 5th string peg was not glued in place and worked its way out in just two weeks, which could have resulted in injury to me or damage to the instrument, if I hadn't noticed before it popped.

The raw brass hooks have bent in an odd way. The problem is that the round shoes stick out farther from the pot than the modern style shoes on my other banjos. As a result, the hooks angle inwards to meet the tension hoop and are gradually bending away from the pot at the nuts.

The cherry used for the pot is not as hard as the maple on my other instruments, and the base of the shoes that support the Vega style wire armrest are digging into it at a slight angle. I put wood shims between the armrest and the tension hoop to stop this from getting worse.

Reliability Rating: 7

Customer Service

I have not dealt with Chuck Waldman directly. No warranty statement was included with banjo.

Customer Service: 7


The tuners are Gotohs with white buttons. So far the tuners have worked well, but I will eventually replace the buttons with ebony. The raw brass tension hoop, which may have come from Rickard, is flawed in that the notch for the neck is not centered between the nearest hooks.

Components Rating: 8

Overall Comments

The fit and finish was a little compromised by small scratches in the finish that do not look like shop wear.

A case was not included in the purchase price and the banjo did not come with the armrest.  With the armrest sticking up a little, the Waldman just barely fits into a Superior CD-2530.  Total investment: $1630.  If the problems cited don't bite me in the long run, it will have been worth it.

Overall Rating: 9

Gryphon Stringed Instruments, Palo Alto, CA

Submitted by Kermitthehermit on 1/29/2015

Overall Comments

No problems of any kind in the process of buying a $1495 banjo from their website in December, 2014.  Would buy from them again.

Overall Rating: 10

Bridges: Bart Veerman Mystery Wood Bridge

Submitted by Kermitthehermit on 11/8/2014

Where Purchased: direct

Overall Comments

An "enigma" wood/ebony bridge was purchased for a new banjitar that came with a poorly shaped model that made proper intonation impossible.  Now the intonation is spot-on, note separation has improved and the instrument is louder.  The cost including shipping was $40.  Given the obvious improvement in tone and volume, I don't think this upgrade was expensive at all.  Bart's communication was also excellent.  Highly recommended!

Overall Rating: 10

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