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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!

7134 reviews in the archive.

Rickard: Dobson

Submitted by jayaw on 7/30/2019

Where Purchased: Elderly Instruments

Year Purchased: 2019
Price Paid: 1700 ($US)


The sound is superb. I kind of knew what I was looking for, but I was also fairly new to the banjo market and wavering between different rim sizes and tone rings. I’d had the chance to sample several BR and Pisgah banjos, plus others – all of which were fine instruments. But, as soon as I played the Rickard models with Dobson tone rings (including both the Maple Ridge and Dobson models, each in 11” and 12”), I knew that this was the right banjo for me. (I ultimately chose the Dobson 11” with its balance of smaller-rim punch and thicker-rim heft/body/bass response.) The sound is instantly impressive – rich and warm with a sort of shimmer. It has great sustain if you want to let it ring yet retains good note separation with great pop and clarity. I play both CH and 2-finger styles, and it sounds great both ways; I’d say, though, that it’s more for CH. When I got it home, being used to a really cheap starter instrument, I was a little blown away and intimidated, but now I really appreciate the ease with which I can create good volume and still sound beautiful. Perfect cluck when played over the neck, good treble when played closer to the bridge. It’s just a fantastic sounding instrument, and so far everyone who has heard it agrees 100%.

Sound Rating: 10


Perfect setup from Elderly. Haven’t done the measurements, but the action is right where it ought to be. They also installed spikes and did so flawlessly (that according to Lucas Poole’s dad, who is no slouch when it comes to banjo building, maintenance, and repair). I’ve made no changes other than fresh strings and have none planned. Might be interesting to try a Balch head some day.

Setup Rating: 10


You’ve probably seen the pictures; Rickard’s work is beautiful and flawless. This one is blonde maple rim and neck, ebony fretboard and peghead overlay with star at 5th and dots at the usual places; aged brass hardware that looks just right; a subtle but very classy tortoise shell binding just below the thin ebony rim binding. The finish is perfect and smooth as silk. Gold fret wire adds a touch of Cadillac panache (and is apparently very durable?). Ebony buttons on Rickard’s own brand new 10:1 tuners. Everyone who sees it is notably impressed, so it’s not just me; it really is gorgeous. I figured, if I’m only going to have one really nice banjo, it might as well be a REALLY NICE banjo. Still, it’s understated and “simple” compared to an old Fairbanks or whatever.

Appearance Rating: 10


This is a lifetime instrument. Not only is it perfect today, but I have every confidence that it will remain so through my and its (probably much longer) lifespan. If anything does go wrong, I’m confident that Bill and his team will do what they can to make it right. (More on that below.) Rickard’s work is very highly regarded, as we all know, and there’s good reason for that: It’s top notch!

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I’ve emailed back and forth a few times (mostly with regard to a case malfunction that they had nothing to do with), and they’ve always been extremely helpful and quick to respond. In fact, they went out of their way to help put me in touch with the case manufacturer, doing the front end work for me and saving me a lot of time and trouble. I’m really thankful for that kind of “above and beyond” service. I wish they weren’t way up in Canada because I’d like to visit the shop and meet the makers. They seem to be great people. BTW: Elderly Instruments was also great to deal with. They were patient and informative and even sat and demoed instruments with me so I could listen from the other side. (I spent a few hours in their basement deciding which Rickard to buy!) Then they helped with free shipping, free tuner, free replacement case handle (which Superior eventually replaced in factory). Rickard and Elderly are both grade-A.

Customer Service: 10


The hardware is lovely and functions perfectly; the aging is tasteful and everything seems made to last. I’m so grateful and lucky to have gotten one of the first banjos to be shipped with those 10:1 tuners (at no additional cost). The whole instrument just feels perfect – smooth, balanced...

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I don’t understand why (except maybe price?) that more people don’t have Rickard banjos. They are a few hundred more than some other makes, but still... They’re not exorbitant – especially considering the consistency and value. Anyway, I’m extremely satisfied with mine and would absolutely recommend Rickard to anyone interested in a really nice modern-yet-timeless instrument. 

Overall Rating: 10

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