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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!

7189 reviews in the archive.

Tone Rings: Arthur Hatfield tone ring

Submitted by Paul Ryan on 7/12/2017

Where Purchased: Private Sale

Overall Comments

The Hatfield ring & rim came with my Gibson Scruggs Standard. The seller had put them in so also included the original Gibson rim & ring in case I wanted to switch back. But I knew that no changes would be made after some new strings and playing for an hour or so. The Hatfield ring is just about as perfect as it gets. This banjo has a gorgeous voice, loud with attitude when needed, laid back and smooth when the song needs that. up the neck the volume and personality is consistent, nothing timid here. I feel so lucky now to have the Hatfield equipment on the ess.

P Rya​n

Overall Rating: 10

Gibson: Earl Scruggs Standard

Submitted by Paul Ryan on 6/22/2017

Where Purchased: Private Sale

Year Purchased: 2016
Price Paid: 2500 ($US) (bought USED)


Best way to describe the sound is rich, heavyl and with attitude when you need it, soft and, full when you need that. I can match its sound depending on the mood and speed of the song. I give it a 9 only because this is the first real good banjo I've owned. Never played an old pre-war so for me, this is good as it gets.

Sound Rating: 9


Needed work. I had some frets replaced, tuners were worked on, new head. Before I sent it, it sounded good, when it came back, it sounded great, had a totally different personality, more growl, more sound possibilities. btw-iIf anyone ever needs work done on acoustic instruments, in Toronto 12th Fret is the place. They brought this ESS to life plus other instruments of mine over the years.

Setup Rating: 6


Beautiful instrument. Curly maple wood, and the neck appointments give you that nice color effect at certain angles. The nickel was almost perfect as the previous owner obviously treated this banjo with great care. Just a gorgeous instrument.

Appearance Rating: 10


This banjo will last a lifetime and beyond. Its a 2005, and looks like it just popped off the assembly line.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

No contact needed, used 12th fret for the setup.

Customer Service: not rated


The prior owner put a Hatfield tone ring and rim in it. I also have the Gibson one but why change a good thing. Before buying, I checked out the Hatfield parts, and knew I was getting a premium upgrade on an already fine instrument. The bridge is Hatfield, the other components are ESS. I've tried a lot of strings and use D'addario mediums. The odd time GHS if a lot of pinches on 3rd string, but D'addarios best reflect the banjo's "personality" I think.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

This is one super banjo. I decided on the nickel ESS over the gold Gra​na​da​ since I thought it would m​a​inta​in its a​ppea​ra​nce longer. The look, feel ​a​nd sound of this instrument is everything I'd hoped for ​a​nd much more. They dont ma​ke them ​a​nymore, truly a​ sha​me. I would recommend this ba​njo to ​a​nyone on the fence. Make sure its been taken care of, before buying. If so get it set up right, a​nd it will be well worth the investment.

Overall Rating: 10

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