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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!

6991 reviews in the archive.

Polish/String Lube: GHS Fast Fret

Submitted by rmcdow on 5/25/2017

Where Purchased: Sweetwater

Overall Comments

GHS Fast Fret has a pretty strong scent added to it, which was the first thing I noticed when I opened the top.  Nothing was said about this in any of the product description, and the label does not mention anything about scents added.  I won't use this product, and Sweetwater was nice to refund my money.  Without knowing the ingredients in the product, except for mineral oil, it is pretty impossible to know how it is going to react with finishes or metal.

Overall Rating: 1

Gold Tone: CEB-5 Cello

Submitted by rmcdow on 7/7/2015

Where Purchased:

Year Purchased: 2015
Price Paid: $400 (bought USED) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

I have been playing harmony, or sometimes melody, with someone who plays rolls with the melody. The CEB-5 works really well for that, as it is an octave lower, and fills in the lower register great. The sound is rich; the sustain is pretty amazing. It can take the place of a bass pretty well.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Everything was set up pretty well, except the head was a bit imbalanced in its tension. I have been tweaking that in slowly, it is a big head at 14". The strings from Goldtone can be a bit noisy with slides; I have ordered flatwound guitar strings to put on the cello, and am waiting to see if that is going to resolve things. The distance between the second and third peg is pretty tight, but it does allow the strings to come straight to the peg, which appears to be a good thing.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

The banjo is a beautiful piece of work. There are nice details in the inlay on the neck.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Hardware is great, I won't replace anything. The finish looks like it is going to last.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

The company was easy to deal with when I called them about possibly making a change to the banjo.

Customer Service: 10

Components

The strings in my opinion could be rethought. The wound strings from Gold Tone can break at the peg if they are bent at too much of an angle, which they are going to be where the string enters the hole of the peg. They can be noisy, but this is likely from my lack of experience playing.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

This is a great banjo, and is very enjoyable to play.  I have a fretless, the first fretless I have played, and it was easy to learn how to play with the short scale length and wide neck.  At this point, it being a new banjo to me and all, it is the main banjo I am playing.  I find it easier to learn a song on a fretted neck, then once I have a bit of memory in my hands of the position, I can play it on the fretless cello fairly easily.  

Overall Rating: 10

Ome: Zen's build #2

Submitted by rmcdow on 7/1/2015

Where Purchased: OME factory

Year Purchased: 2015
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

The sound of the banjo is great. It's an openback, and has all the quality parts used in the OME banjos.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The banjo was set up by Chuck when I acquired it. Good intonation and played well up the neck.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

The appearance is very simple, no custom inlay on the Asian neck, pot is painted black. No appearance flaws, but the first one I got didn't have a finished neck, so was a bit rough on the hands; took it back the next day and exchanged it for one that Zen had finished.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

The hardware is first class, and looks like it will last well

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Tanya, Zen, and Chuck are all very helpful and friendly. I visit the factory every time I am in Boulder now. I like the OME strings and buy them now for other banjos I have and am making.

Customer Service: 10

Components

German made planatary tuners, OME 3/8" brass tone ring, well made hooks, nuts, and brackets, I believe Bill Rickard makes them for OME. The neck is a simple Asian neck, and is well made, if very simple. Zen put a buffalo nickel on the peghead.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I highly recommend this banjo for anyone who wants an entry level banjo (from a price point of view), but would like a banjo that has quality components.  I have two other name brand beginner banjos, plus a banjo I put together from a Stewart pot and Asian neck (the same neck as on the OME), and none of them come close to the quality of sound of this banjo.  You won't be able to beat the price.  The banjo is only available at the factory, call.

Overall Rating: 10

Nechville: Moonshine

Submitted by rmcdow on 5/13/2015

Where Purchased:

Year Purchased: 2015
Price Paid: Don't Remember (bought USED) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

The sound is very full and rich on this openback banjo, and comes from the side of the banjo as well as from the head. It is a great sound with the wood tone ring.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The set-up was great when I purchased it used. I subsequently took the neck off to fly to another town with it, so needed to set it up again. Once I got used to the way the Nechville flux capacitor neck attachment worked, with tension on the strings, set-up is relatively for the action height. The flux capacitor could use an alignment key slot or something to keep the fretboard level with the head, as there is a lot of floating around of the neck position to deal with when adjusting the neck. Tom was very open to my input about this.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

The Moonshine neck is beautiful, and with the radius fretboard and aluminum frame, is a real work of art.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Built like a tank, to last. I don't feel there will be any issues with this banjo.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I bought this banjo used, and it had a resonator bolted onto the flange of the frame. I wanted to convert it to an open back, and called Al, who sent me the new frame as an exchange. I liked the old frame better, but wanted to remove the flange except where the tailpiece attached. Tom offered a frame like this in exchange, but I opted to modify the one I purchased and send it back in for re-coating after I removed the flange and polished the metal. Tom and Al give the best customer service you could ask for. They go beyond what you normally get in customer service, and are a pleasure to deal with.

Customer Service: 10

Components

I was looking for a light openback as a gift to my fiance, and after looking at the Nechville, decided to replace the steel bearings with wood balls. This removed about 11 ounces of weight from the banjo, and to say the least, didn't hurt the tone. I can't tell if it improved it or not, but sent a set of wood balls to Tom, who installed them on his banjo, and said the sound was amazing. He is still evaluating it at his jams the last I heard.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

The Nechville design is a true improvement on the banjo construction, as it takes all the stresses on the rim and puts them on the frame, which is built to carry them well.  The flux capacitor, once you get used to adjusting it, is a great design that I am going to use on the two banjo necks I am currently building, as it allows one to swap out necks with relative ease, and to change the action quickly.  I am continuing to work with Tom on improvements to the banjo, and it is a pleasure to work with someone who is constantly looking for ways to improve his product.  I highly recommend the Nechville with its Helimount frame and flux capacitor neck attachment to anyone looking for a banjo with a great sound that can be adjusted to your own preferences.  I look forward to building a couple of these, and am turning one tone ring now for one.

Overall Rating: 10

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