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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!

7124 reviews in the archive.

Capos: Planet Waves NS Trio Capo

Submitted by loonsailor on 6/4/2017

Where Purchased: Elderly Instruments

Overall Comments

I bought this for my Prucha, which has a radiused neck.  Works great.  I bought it for upper frets - I have a beautiful Elliot that works great for first 4 frets - but I may just wind up using this for everything.  It's very light and convenient, and I can't tell any difference in tone.

It would be easy to be confused about which capo this is.  Planet Waves makes 2 nearly identical capos that will work for banjos.  One has a flat arm for flat fretboards, and one - the one I'm reviewing - has a curved arm.  The flat one is "NS Banjo / Mandolin Capo Pro", part number PW-CP-11.  The one I have seems to go by different names.  Elderly calls it "NS Trio Capo", but the Planet Wave web site, and the packaging that it came on, calls it "NS Drop Tune Capo", part number PW-CP-06.  PW says "Designed for partial capo drop tunings on ... guitars with radiused fretboards", but they also say "functions as an effective banjo, mandolin, or ukelele capo".

This capo is great for the radiused Prucha.  It does work on my RK with a flat fretboard, but I have to get it very tight or the inner strings buzz.  If your main use is for an instrument with a flat fretboard, go for the other one, PWCP11.

Overall Rating: 9

Armrests: Nechville Comfort Bevel Armrest

Submitted by loonsailor on 3/16/2017

Where Purchased: Nechville

Overall Comments

I'm doing this as a comparison review, between the Nechville and Dr. Arm wooden armrests, and posting it in both categories.  Long story short, they're both wonderful products and much more similar than they are different, but there is a slight difference that may or may not be important to you.

I wanted a wooden armrest because I've had some tendonitis problems, and thought that an armrest with a softer bevel, rather than the 90 degree angle on the metal armrest, would help.  Both of these armrests fill that bill, with the Dr Arm being a bit more gradual than the Nechville. 

I bought the Nechville for my Prucha Diamond Point.  When it arrived*, I installed it easily.  It's very attractive.  There was no choice of wood on Nechville's order page, so I just ordered and hoped.  It turned out to be a perfect match for the dark Prucha finish.  Just lucky I guess. One of the other reviewers said that if you tell them about your banjo, they'll try to match it, but I didn't do that.

I liked that armrest so much that I ordered another from Nechville for my Recording King RK35.  When it arrived, I attached it, and found that it didn't fit.  The armrest is not adjustable as to height above the head, because it attaches by clamping between the back of the head and the top of the tension hoop, rather than to the tension rods like the metal armrest.  On the Prucha, it sits very slightly above the head, but it doesn't touch.  On the RK, though, it actually contacts the head, which can't be good for tone.  The tension hoop sits about 3.1mm above the head on the Prucha, about 1.5mm on the RK.  That was enough to cause a problem.  I contacted Nechville and they made some suggestions, but I couldn't solve the problem.  So, I returned it and ordered a Dr Arm to try on the RK.

It arrived in about a week.  As I said, it's very similar to the Nechville.  Dr Arm allows you to order with choice of several woods - I chose the custom maple. It attaches in the same way as the Nechville, but it's cut slightly differently.  When I mounted it, it fit fine, with a bit of clearance between it and the head.

So, I now have the Dr Arm on my RK, and the Nechville on my Prucha.  I love both of them.  Both of them are far more comfortable than the metal armrests that they replaced.  Both are beautiful.  The Dr Arm has a slightly more gradual slope, but the Nechville is just fine.  Both attach easily, in an almost identical way.

In short I recommend both of them wholeheartedly, with the choice being really one of preference (looks?, want to buy American?). The one caveat is that if, like me, you have an instrument with very little clearance from head to tension hoop, the Dr Arm is more likely to fit.

 

* I ordered the Nechville around Christmas time.  After several weeks it hadn't shown up.  I contacted Nechville and Al Price sent me a new one, no questions asked and no charge.  The lost box was left on my doorstep, unopened, about a month later, probably having been delivered to the wrong house - definitely not Nechville's fault.  Al was very responsive and great to deal with, both through this and with the fit and return problems on the second unit.  Thanks, Nechville!

Overall Rating: 10

Armrests: Dr. Arm

Submitted by loonsailor on 3/16/2017

Where Purchased: Dr. Arm

Overall Comments

I'm doing this as a comparison review, between the Nechville and Dr. Arm wooden armrests, and posting it in both categories.  Long story short, they're both wonderful products and much more similar than they are different, but there is a slight difference that may or may not be important to you.

I wanted a wooden armrest because I've had some tendonitis problems, and thought that an armrest with a softer bevel, rather than the 90 degree angle on the metal armrest, would help.  Both of these armrests fill that bill, with the Dr Arm being a bit more gradual than the Nechville. 

I bought the Nechville for my Prucha Diamond Point.  When it arrived, I installed it easily.  It's very attractive.  There was no choice of wood on Nechville's order page, so I just ordered and hoped.  It turned out to be a perfect match for the dark Prucha finish.  Just lucky I guess. One of the other reviewers said that if you tell them about your banjo, they'll try to match it, but I didn't do that.

I liked the armrest so much that I ordered another from Nechville for my Recording King RK35.  When it arrived, I attached it, and found that it didn't fit.  The armrest is not adjustable as to height above the head, because it attaches by clamping between the back of the head and the top of the tension hoop, rather than to the tension rods like the metal armrest.  On the Prucha, it sits very slightly above the head, but it doesn't touch.  On the RK, though, it actually contacts the head, which can't be good for tone.  The tension hoop sits about 3.1mm above the head on the Prucha, about 1.5mm on the RK.  That was enough to cause a problem.  I contacted Nechville and they made some suggestions, but I couldn't solve the problem.  So, I returned it and ordered a Dr Arm to try on the RK.

It arrived in about a week.  As I said, it's very similar to the Nechville.  Dr Arm allows you to order with choice of several woods - I chose the custom maple. It attaches in the same way as the Nechville, but it's cut slightly differently.  When I mounted it, it fit fine, with a bit of clearance between it and the head.

So, I now have the Dr Arm on my RK, and the Nechville on my Prucha.  I love both of them.  Both of them are far more comfortable than the metal armrests that they replaced.  Both are beautiful.  The Dr Arm has a slightly more gradual slope, but the Nechville is just fine.  Both attach easily, in an almost identical way.

In short I recommend both of them wholeheartedly, with the choice being really one of preference (looks?, want to buy American?). The one caveat is that if, like me, you have an instrument with very little clearance from head to tension hoop, the Dr Arm is more likely to fit.

Overall Rating: 10

Capos: shubb f5 fine tune capo

Submitted by loonsailor on 3/14/2017

Where Purchased: Elderly

Overall Comments

An excellent capo for $75.  Very similar to my Elliot capo.  The differences are:

  • Elliot has a leather strip that sits against the back of the neck, Shubb has rubber.
  • Elliot has a cool push-button to release the bale, Schubb has a hinged gate.  Push button may be just the tinitest bit nicer.
  • Schubb has a couple of tiny rubber bumers to protect the sides of the neck, Elliott doesn't.
  • Elliott has a simple screw for tightening, Shubb has a cool internally threaded nut, so the support moves but the knob doesn't.  Also, it's nicer and has numbers.  I like the Schubb arrangement.
  • The Elliot is 10g lighter (25g vs. 35g).

I love the Elliott.  it's a beautiful, light, hand-machined objet-d'arte, while the Schubb, I assume, is made in a factory somewhere.  But, the Schubb works at least as well, and is 40% cheaper.  Objectively, unless you feel strongly about supporting a small US craftsman, or the little bit of weight (10g is 1/3 oz.) is important to you, the Schubb is a great capo for a great price.

Overall Rating: 10

Recording King: MADISON RK-R35

Submitted by loonsailor on 10/9/2016

Where Purchased: Guitar Center

Year Purchased: 2016
Price Paid: 475 ($US)

Sound

Sounds great, now that it's set up. Pretty much a classic flat head bluegrass sound.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

Setup was atrocious. It was a Guitar Center store demo (that's why it was so cheap) so most of that was probably GC's fault, since it was likely knocked around, but basically everything that could be wrong (head tension, strings, neck curve, action, ...) was, indeed, wrong. Two items, though, were probably RK's fault. The nut was not even a banjo nut, but was radiused (the neck is not) and was probably cut down from a guitar or something. Also, the 5th string nut was screwed up and caused it to buzz badly. Both needed replacement. Again, because it was so cheap, I was willing to do this but at full price I would have been mighty angry.

Setup Rating: 1

Appearance

Looks nice. Not fancy, but nice.

Appearance Rating: 7

Reliability

All the hardware seems fine (except see above re setup). Tuners are adequate, not wonderful.

Reliability Rating: 8

Customer Service

GC is worthless, and I've had no direct contact with RK.

Customer Service: 5

Components

Once i got it into shape I'm very happy with the instrument, with one exception. I just don't like the neck. It's too narrow for me, and is in fact objectively narrow (calipers say 1.2" at the nut, but it tapers in somewhat from there to the fingerboard). Sadly, that's pretty much the one thing that can't be economically changed on a banjo in this price range.

Components Rating: 7

Overall Comments

This is a very good instrument for the price, but make sure the components are what you are expecting (look at the nut, specifically) and, depending on who you buy from, expect that you may need to do some work on the setup.  Also, be sure the neck works for your hand.  This may be the single reason that I replace mine at some point.

If it does work for you, it's a solid, great sounding instrument at a very good price.

 

Overall Rating: 8

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