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6919 reviews in the archive.
Where Purchased: White Mountain Banjos
Year Purchased: 2017
Price Paid: 650 ($US)
Nice full sound, plays true up the neck. The rim is sourced from Mark Hickler so it has the internal resonator, which makes for a wonderful tone and sort of echo-y.
Because of the rim design I have found I have to play sitting down so I can position the pot away from my body so it isn't muted. The 11" pot probably has a 5" open back due to design so if it is against my body the sound isn't nearly as full as if I can brace it against my leg and turn the banjo away a bit. This isn't a criticism, it is the banjo design.
The neck plays easily, it seems to pull of and hammer on quickly and clearly with little effort.
This is my 3rd banjo and I have been working my way up in quality. My previous banjo is a Deering Goodtime 2 and there is nothing comparable between them. Sound quality, playability all go to the White Mountain Banjo.
Sound Rating: 9
I bought it in the shop, action was where I like it. If I had any issues or changes I wanted it would have been done on the spot. There was a little buzz in the 5th string where the string was not low enough in the nut to contact the fret but not high enough to be above it and not buzz, easy fix though and barely worth noting.
Setup Rating: 9
I am not a fan of fancy instruments. A plain instrument that plays and sounds good is as good as one with fancy inlays and wood to me. The rim, not made by White Mountain, is a beautiful maple, same with the neck (neck IS made by White Mountain) and the head is an equally beautiful Birdseye maple. There are simple dots inlaid on the neck, a simple inlay on the head.
Steve showed me all the banjos he has in stock and a few he is working on. I will say that his inlay work is very, very nice. While not my banjo, he is building one for his wife with a peacock inlay that is not only beautiful but perfectly fit.
This banjo was the price I paid because Steve had a very low overhead for the components (given to him when he bought the company). The typical price for this banjo is $1100. Naturally, given the price, I began to scour the instrument looking for flaws that would help justify the deal I got. I could find 1 semi "flaw", that is the dot on the top of the neck at the 15th fret is a tiny bit off compared to the rest. That's it.
Appearance Rating: 8
The tuners are Gotoh, I personally like guitar style tuners but these are great, no concerns. It came with a compensated bridge (not sure which brand) which I switched for a Moon bridge which is just my preference.
The finish seems fine, I don't see any imperfections or anything that would cause me concern. I don't play gigs but I see nothing that suggests it would have issues. It stays in tune, I switch from G to double C frequently and there is no issues there.
Reliability Rating: 9
I had a bunch of questions while I was there, Steve walked me through his shop, talked to me about his building process (I'm a fellow wood worker). I texted him some questions later and he was prompt in his response.
His warranty is "just bring it to me if you have issues". There was a buzz in the 5th string and he offered to meet me halfway between our homes to get it sorted out if I needed.
Steve was great to work with, no concerns about having him help me out if there is an issue. He also threw in some extra strings, a soft case he had and a clip on tuner.
Customer Service: 9
One thing Steve made sure I knew was the fretboard was rocklite, not ebony. He said as a purist he didn't really like this but everyone who had played it really liked it. I played it and several of his other in stock banjos which had ebony, I didn't notice any difference. It also doesn't bother me a bit, I'm a function over form guy anyway.
Components Rating: 9
Some familiar with White Mountain Banjos may know it had been owned by Ron Grimsley, who has since retired. He sold the company to Steve Ross who now runs it. Talking to Steve, it sounds like Ron ran him through a lengthy training process before selling it to him. Looking at the instruments he had in stock, I couldn't find any flaws in workmanship on any of them.
I have seen some small builder's banjos before, many have obvious flaws and imperfections. I have walked through a few of their shops. To me this can help tell a story about the builder. Steve's shop is clean and orderly, he showed and explained to all his equipment etc. The work I was able to see was very clean and well built- my Deering Goodtime has more obvious imperfections than any I saw in Steve's small shop.
I had been in the market for a banjo upgrade for awhile, ideally I wanted to be able to play the banjo before I bought it, which is difficult as not many music stores here stock banjos above basic entry level. I called Steve and he made himself immediately available. I spent about 1 1/2 hours at his house/shop and walked away impressed.
My banjo plays very well. It tunes easily, stays true up the neck, the sound quality is full with a slight echo. I would call it the look beautifully plain. The wood is pretty with no imperfections. Everyone has a different taste in sounds, I love the sound compared to what I own already, a few higher end Washburn's I have played in a shop in town and some from another local builder.
I play for pleasure and sometimes for church, this banjo suits my needs well. I recommend this builder, his work shows attention to detail, he uses quality and tested components (Hickler rims, Gotoh tuners etc).
Overall Rating: 9
' Virtual Fiddle jam.' 37 min
'Good Wednesday Morning' 5 hrs
'Building a case' 9 hrs
'Newbie Questions' 9 hrs
'Appalachian Rain' 10 hrs