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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!

6919 reviews in the archive.

Alvarez: silver princess

Submitted by stringbeaner on 8/13/2006

Where Purchased: Tulsa, ok, big music store

Year Purchased: 1975
Price Paid: 250.00 historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

clean, clear-great variations avaliable by adjusting head tension; everything from ear-piercing bluegrass to bascom lamar lunsford plunky. I bought it when I was building a new neck for my Stromberg and needed something to perform and teach with. Turned out to be a great choice. When i finished the neck on my reg'lar gourd i gave it to my wife. she played clawhammer.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Setup was jus' dandy for my style (clawhammer, some classical, old-timey and some blugrass). I don't recollect having to do anything to it but I did fool around with the sound by adjusting head tension. Put it back about where it was when I got it tho.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Good (japanese) finish for the times. Basically a dead copy of a 30's Vega tubaphone - Open back, Tubaphone-type tone ring, vee-shaped neck, good quality accessories. I added a sliding 5th string capo and an old Orpheum tailpiece 'cause it looked like an old window-latch. Vega-style armrest.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Banjo looked like new 10-12 years later when I finally sold it to a student who still owns and plays it.

I never take a back-up banjo to a gig, just extra strings and maybe a bridge.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Never had to deal with them.

Customer Service: 8

Components

This was just a dandy banjo. Every thing worked, looked and sounded like it was supposed to. after 8 or 9 years some of the plating wore off the armrest. The only thing I would have replaced would be the tubaphone tone ring. It WASN'T brass!!

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

If I could find another one I'd grab it just to have another one. Played good, looked good and sounded good even with an alloy tone ring.

Overall Rating: 10

Vega: pete seeger long neck

Submitted by stringbeaner on 6/30/2006

Where Purchased: Denton, Tx - don't remember store name

Year Purchased: 1958
Price Paid: $260.00 historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Came with a Vega 5-star leather head. When I ordered this banjo they were still made only to order and were a high quality instrument. (The same model banjo made in 1962 was given to me by a friend and was lighter in weight and had kind of a thin sound in comparison.) This '58 model took about 2 mos. to be delivered. The sound was great for the music I was playing at the time. I played with a trio and it was a great lead instrument. The long neck allowed playing low notes and tunings which was neat.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

It was well set up when it came. I tightened the head a little and put on a slightly lower bridge. (It came with 3 different size bridges.) It had a 5th-string nail capo which I later removed and installed a sliding capo. I never had to adjust the truss-rod and played it for years.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

It looked like a shiny new banjo. No finish flaws. pearl dot position markers, good finish inside and out. Came with planetary type tuners which I later changed for guitar- style Grovers for convinience.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

100%. I played it everywhere. Wore some of the finish off the back of the neck after a while and wore some of the plating off the arm rest but that didn't hurt the playing at all.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

Vega had to send me a couple of unmounted leather heads over the years. They were prompt and offered suggestions on mounting.

Customer Service: 10

Components

All components were high quality. It was at that point in time a custom made instrument from a well-known maker of banjos.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

It did every thing I asked of it and kept right on going. I finally traded it off but I still see it occasionally and it's still going.

Overall Rating: 10

stromberg: tenor converted to 5-string

Submitted by stringbeaner on 6/28/2006

Where Purchased: On the street, St. Louis, Mo

Year Purchased: 1961
Price Paid: bottle of gin and $5.00 (bought USED) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

When purchased, neck was broken, head was torn, case held together with old belt and duct tape, no tailpiece. I took it home and whittled out a 5-string neck on my kitchen table. Used that neck until 1976 when it finally warped and purchased a "Silver Princess" (Japanese) neck and used that one until 2005. Am in the process of building another one now.

The rim is larger than standard 11"s But I have found plastic heads and have mounted my own (vega 5-star) heads. The original neck had some initials and 1925 carved in it inside the pot. Has "Cupophone" tone ring.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The banjo was in poor general shape when I got it but I made a new neck and added a no-name bearclaw tailpiece and Grovers and a geared 5th-string peg and a sliding 5th-string capo. It is set up to suit me and it does that all to hell!
Oh, yeah! I radiused the fingerboard 'cause I've got arthritis in my hands and that helps a lot.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

The resonator is a plated brass pot with a hole (6") in the back and a row of 3/8" holes around the flange. (for the curious, pictures are available) The resonator fits over the bottom of the pot and is attached by 4 machine head type screws. It isn't spectacular to look at but is clean and shiney.

Appearance Rating: 8

Reliability

This banjo has never failed me! I'd like to take it with me when I kick the bucket if I knew where I was going.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

N/A since I can't find the old sot I bought it from.

Customer Service: not rated

Components

Some of the components were missing when I got it so I put on the best ones I could come up with over the years.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

I've used this old banjo for 45 years and have never desired another. It is one of the best recording banjos I've ever heard. People like John Hartford have borrowed it for their recording sessions and have agreed with me. These were always tenors and were made to order only so they are hard to come by but if you find one latch on to it and set it up to suit you.

Overall Rating: 10

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