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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!

7170 reviews in the archive.

Zachary Hoyt: #88 - 12" Walnut Wood Tonering

Submitted by nwambue on 11/18/2019

Where Purchased: From Zach direct

Year Purchased: 2018
Price Paid: $930 ($US)


Overall the sound is great. It has a rich, full tone, as one would expect from a 12" walnut pot. Zach's uncapped maple bridge adds a lot of brightness. I have tried a few other bridges, but haven't found anything better yet. Eventually would like something a little less bright. The wood towering definitely provides plenty of 'plunk', with the right about of decay and sustain for the sound I like.

Sound Rating: 9


Overall setup was good, although I do have to deal with 4th string buzz anytime I am in double C tuning. Doesn't seem to be an issue when the string is in D with open G, sawmill, or Cumberland Gap tuning. The banjo came with a no-knot tailpiece which I have replaced with a cast bronze brooks tailpiece. That added a lot for the looks, and I think a little bit more down-pressure and punch to the sound. The bridge is also a pretty non-standard size - 13/16", so looking for alternate bridges to try is not easy. No-go with anything lower either, as that will make the action too low and further contribute to string buzz. Also, with the s-scoop on the fretboard, I think there should be a notch in the tension hoop where the neck meets the pot to allow for clearance of your thumb if playing over the fretboard. This hasn't been critical to me, as I have naturally been more comfortable playing over the head. Although, not sure if that is because at the beginning I never felt I could get my thumb under the 5th string due to string height, tension hoop missing a notch, etc.

Setup Rating: 6


Beautiful banjo overall. After a year of heavy playing, the raw brass is showing some pitting/corrosion where there is no hand-wear, such as the inside of the tension hoop. All other exposed brass hardware is wearing nicely. Haven't decided if I will antique the hardware, or just polish it up. Finish of the pot and neck is very nice, just not perfect. There were several light scratches on the pot when I received it. The s-scoop on the fretboard could have used some further sanding as well. Overall, very nice for the cost though.

Appearance Rating: 8


After a year of heavy playing, it is very reliable. This is a very solid, well made banjo. The wood finish on the neck and pot look the same as when I bought it. The raw brass is antiquing nicely where touched by my hands. The Gotoh tuners have been reliable, and hold tune well.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

Zach was very responsive when purchasing, shipped very quickly and was packaged well. Zach has quickly responded to any questions via email as well.

Customer Service: 10


Nice components - Gotoh tuners, EVO fold frets, unique Van Eps style tension hoop (just needs the notch) and hardware. The frosted rennaissance head is nice, although I am looking to upgrade to a Balch skin head at some point.

Components Rating: 8

Overall Comments

Overall, I still feel that Zach's banjo's are one of the best values out there. From a build quality and feature perspective, the price is hard to beat.  Plus I love the sound I get with the 12" walnut pot and wood tonering profile.  That will only get better with a skin head.

Overall Rating: 8

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