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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!

6936 reviews in the archive.

Beartown (David Whiting): Banjo #005 – Sapele / Wenge with brass rod tone ring

Submitted by Brogan on 4/12/2019

Where Purchased: Beartown Banjos

Year Purchased: 2018
Price Paid: $950 ($US) (bought USED)

Sound

Beautiful block rim tone. Great clarity and sweet, balanced sound. Took a while to get used to, but now my go to banjo - and certainly far and away the best for recording.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Came perfect, but hooks gradually loosened up. Now tighten them every so often. Actually don't mind doing this basic maintenance - another means of tweaking the tone and sustain. Dave very generously threw in an extra bridge.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

See it here: https://beartownbanjo.com/wp/category/banjo-gallery/
A really lovely banjo, with an emphasis on the timber's native qualities.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Absolutely, just be careful to keep a nut wrench with me.
The wood, the hide head, all the metal hardware and the case are all excellent quality.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

Dave reset the frets and put on a new hide head for next to nothing. Pleasure to deal with.

Customer Service: 10

Components

The sapele block rim and neck, the wenge fretboard and the brass hardware. I also really like the curved bridge.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

Purchased this at very reasonable price, because Dave had given it some use, but once Dave reset the frets and added a new hide head, the banjo may as well have been new. It plays much better than my other more reputable and more expensive banjo. Very responsive instrument and lovely sound.

Overall Rating: 10

Beartown (David Whiting): Travel Banjo

Submitted by Brogan on 12/7/2018

Where Purchased: Beartown Banjos

Year Purchased: 2018
Price Paid: $950 ($US)

Sound

Beautiful short scale banjo (20") with a lovely full sound. Great tonal quality, clarity and sustain. I play mainly clawhammer, but with lots of chords. Was very surprised that a small banjo with a 9 inch pot could sound so good. Thought it was just going to be reserved for travel, but it has become my main instrument. Slightly less loud than an ordinary banjo, but this works very well for me in terms of the balance of voice and instrument volume.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Came packaged in a TKL mandolin case (29" X 12"), with extra foam to ensure it never moved in transit. A quick tune and it was up and running. Very happy with the curved Beartown bridge and the goatskin head has needed no adjustment so far.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

The emphasis of this banjo is on the quality of the wood and the brass fittings. The Padauk fretboard is gorgeous. Check out the Beartown site for full details.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

All very solid. I can't imagine this banjo breaking before I do.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

David has been a pleasure to deal with, answering all my questions and doing a lot of extra small things free or at a very reasonable cost.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Pretty, much as I described before - the wood, the brass fittings, the curved bridge and the goatskin head. Also really like the block rim build - strong, seamless and seems to provide a great basis for the note clarity and sustain.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I guess it's clear that I like this banjo very much.  Compact, easy to travel with, but still sounds like a proper instrument.

I used to play mainly guitar.  For many years I prided myself on playing the cheapest laminate guitars available. Then I played a slightly better guitar and finally a Martin 000-15m guitar. Unsurprisingly, the Martin seemed an infinitely nicer instrument, with a tonal richness that you just can't get it in a cheap laminate guitar.

I'm having a similar, slightly abbreviated experience with banjos.  I started out a few years ago with a cheap resonator banjo with an aluminum pot.  I straight away liked the abrasive sound and volume, but very hard to tease out anything sweet and melodic.  Then I got full size handmade open back.  Very nice instrument, but still lacks some indefinable element of melodic sweetness.  Then I got this travel banjo and that was it, I'd found my equivalent of the Martin experience.

Overall Rating: 10

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