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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.

Nechville: Eclipse

Submitted by paipoboarder on 12/16/2006

Where Purchased: Mass Street Music

Year Purchased: 2005
Price Paid: Don't Remember (bought USED) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

My first impression was that the banjo lacked "punch." An Emerson Power Bridge was installed for an "apples-to-apples" comparison to my two other maple instruments with ebony fingerboards and Power Bridges. The result was a marked improvement. I heeded the advice of Hangout members who have stated that a bridge needs time to settle. The sound blossomed after two months and the banjo has the clarity of a Baldwin Ode Style D I once owned. The Style D still has a slight edge with its "silvery" quality but the Eclipse is nevertheless a superb-sounding banjo. The tone is crisp (without being "tinny" or "brittle") up and down the fingerboard, and minimal effort needed to extract sound with the picking hand.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The Eclipse was shipped directly to Nechville Musical Products (NMP) and Tom installed: one of his tailpieces to replace the Presto, a wood armrest (the Eclipse did not come with one) and railroad spikes. The labor charge was minimal. Photos on the Mass Street Music website indicated that the nickel-plated tone ring was tarnished but it was polished to a gleam by NMP. The set-up was excellent and resulted in the easiest playability of any banjo I have owned.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

This banjo has black binding on the neck and black binding with a white accent stripe on the resonator. The wood is dark-stained maple and the hardware is nickel-plated except for the black matte frame. This banjo has a plain but elegant look.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

The nickel plating on the tone ring is excellent with no pitting. The black frame eliminates concerns about tarnish. The banjo is solidly-made and I anticipate it to be very reliable.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Jim, Gayland and Grant of Mass Street Music were very cordial when I inquired about the banjo. Their description of the banjo's condition (very good with no dings and little or minimum fret wear) was accurate. The rapport established with Tom plus this instrument's tone and playability led to the eventual purchase of a custom Phantom. Tom impressed me with his business philosophy of taking care of Nechville customers.

Customer Service: 10

Components

The standard Nechville tone ring is the crown jewel of this banjo. This metal tone ring (flathead) plus the ply rim equals a winning combination.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I had been fascinated by both the construction and the light weight of Nechville banjos. For years, I believed that heavier banjos were supposed to sound better than lighter ones but the Eclipse has changed my line of thinking. This purchase was a great buy.

Overall Rating: 10

Nechville: Phantom

Submitted by paipoboarder on 12/12/2006

Where Purchased: Nechville Musical Products

Year Purchased: 2006
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

I was awed by this new instrument's tone right out of the case(received October 18, 2006). The bass string is powerful and a robust sound is evident, particularly from the first to tenth fret. Since acquiring the banjo and playing it every day for at least 25 minutes, the sound appears to be more "focused" or "distinct" with no loss on the bottom end. There is a nice tone when executing the 10th fret choke on the second string and a warm resonance when using the thumbpick to brush across all five open strings.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The action could be lowered to my preferred 5/8" height but for now, the higher .656" is definitely playable. There is good intonation at the higher frets with the compensated bridge. I will tinkerwith the tightening of the head and the possible installation of lighter gauge strings before experimenting with another bridge.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

This custom instrument is stunning. The fit and finish are comparable to a Stelling that was sold in order to make the Phantom affordable. The blonde maple has a beautiful mirror-like surface and the resonator is accented with cocobolo binding instead of maple that is generally associated with the Phantom. The two edges of the cocobolo fingerboard represent the binding. The lack of binding initially worried me because of my belief that binding, similar to cove base, exists to hide imperfections. However, there was little cause for concern because the workmanship is impeccable. Both "edges" of the fingerboard have flowing patterns that are beautiful to behold. The fingerboard has no inlay and a conservative grain pattern while the cocobolo peghead has a more dramatic look--both complement each other. The Renaissance head coordinates with the blonde maple finish and I like the look of the 40-hole tone ring lurking right below the surface of the translucent head. The black hardware is a nice contrast to the blonde maple and the cocobolo. I opted for planetary tuners instead of the guitar-type machines so this gives a different look to the geometric peghead. An upgrade was a higher quality of maple and it was well worth the cost. The resonator has a mesmerizing hologram effect when tilting the instrument back and forth in the light.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

The instrument has quality written all over it and expect it to be very reliable. The black frame, tailpiece and tuners eliminate concerns about tarnishing and polishing.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Tom spent a great deal of time with me on this banjo project. I initially contacted him about a replacement neck (with a trade-in of the existing) for my Eclipse because of my interest in a tunneled fifth. Tom became aware of my reservations about a new neck because I had commented about the great sound of my Eclipse and how a new neck may not capture its sonic magic. He offered a new Phantom at a very good price and we tweaked the specifications until I was satisfied. A custom color was originally specified but late in the process, Tom let me delete this for performance parts (ball-bearing upgrade and a 40-hole tone ring). When inquiring about a used older rim that might be somewhere in his shop, Tom apprised me of an available Tony Pass rim that was already cut for the ball-bearing feature and a color that would coordinate with the blonde maple. These two factors plus a nominal fee for this block rim made it a deal I could not resist. I find this level of personalized service and accommodation rare in today's business world. Also, Al Price was helpful during the past several months. My banjo was on the last legs of completion a few months ago when Tom informed me that he was not satisfied with the neck and would build another one. I have been having a blast playing the Eclipse so the additional wait was not a problem. I admire Tom's professional standards about the quality of his banjos whereby he would craft another neck so that the customer would be happy with the end result.

Customer Service: 10

Components

High-grade parts are evident and they include a 40-hole flathead tone ring, cyclonic ball-bearing feature and a Tony Pass rim. The neck has moderately-figured maple with subtle but attrtactive "flaming" while the resonator has a striking Deering Calico-type grain/pattern. Tom called me about two weeks before shipment and mentioned the availability of a semi-gloss black frame (in lieu of a matte finish). My choice was semi-gloss and this finish adds a luxurious touch.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

The proprietary and patented frame supplants the conventional flange, tension hoop, hooks and nuts. The lightness of this instrument is a big plus for me (herniated disc). Considering the customized features, fit and finish, and a Tony Pass rim, the Phantom represents tremendous value for the price I paid. To Tom and Al, thank you very much. For those looking for a banjo with excellent workmanship, innovative features and backed by superlative customer service, I highly recommend Nechville Musical Products.

Overall Rating: 10

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