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!
6883 reviews in the archive.
Where Purchased: Spruce Tree Music Madison, WI
Year Purchased: 2019
Price Paid: approx $1300 ($US)
Long time upright bass player, just getting into clawhammer. Looking to buy an instrument that will last me a long time.
I like a plunky tone. Loud enough, but not too loud. Like a spare, old-time sound - often play just banjo and fiddle. Very different sound in center of pot and over scoop. Mellow - but REALLY projects when I dig in. Will allow me to do whatever I wish as I grow into it.
I set a rough dollar range (under $1350), and was committed to buying the best sounding/feeling banjo in that range.
Being pretty much a beginner, it was a challenge to compare instruments, as my skills - and ability to repeat consistently - are limited.
Sound Rating: 10
Seller took this one out of the box - required minimal setup to how it came from the builder.
I had tried just about every 5-string openback under $1500 in the Chicago area. Headed to Spruce Tree in Madison, as they had the greatest variety in stock, to allow me to compare side-to-side.
Spruce Tree Music is an incredible store for anyone into acoustic instruments. Neat old building jampacked with banjos, fiddles, mandos, and guitars. Wonderful staff.
I told them what I was interested in, and they sat me down in a chair, surrounded me with maybe 4-5 instrument stands, and started pulling out instruments. As I rejected one, they'd whisk it away and place another banjo before me.
I think I tried banjos for some 3 hours - and I felt like I could've stayed another 3 if I wanted. Owner happily played them when asked to show what they sounded like when played by someone w/ skill.
Setup Rating: 10
Appearance is pretty much what made me end up with the Possum. I narrowed it down to 2 Pisgahs - the Possum, and a Rambler. Kept going back between which I liked better. And both were beautiful - in their own way. The spun over Rambler w/ side dots was much more "industrial" looking.
What decided me was my wife (who is a luthier) said, "That one's prettier - buy it!" I figured if she has to see it sitting in our living room, her opinion was worth something! ;) Plus, she told me to buy the pricier one!
The walnut pot is beautiful, with striking grain. The persimmon fingerboard has a couple of small knots - a look I really like. Just beautiful woodwork.
Appearance Rating: 10
Pegs seem rock solid, and hold tune very well. I brought it to my regular jam where at least 4 very accomplished pickers tried it out. All were EXTREMELY complimentary - and I LOVED how it sounded when they played it. This banjo is going to last me decades - and likely be handed down to my kids.
The aged brass and black tuning pegs are neat touches. Look VERY rich. I ordered a walnut armrest from Balsam.
Reliability Rating: 10
It is a real treat to deal with the owner of a small company like Pisgah, who is so committed to quality and customer service. He responded to my e-mails very promptly and thoroughly.
When I told him I had bought one, he invited me to stop by his shop if I were ever in the area.
Customer Service: 10
The Gotoh tuners are rock solid. All of the other hardware is made by Pisgah's partner/subsidiary Balsam Banjoworks.
Just nice to have an instrument that is entirely handmade in the US out of native wood.
Components Rating: 10
There are several quality makers in the $1000-1350 range. I played several very nice banjos, and had a hard time narrowing it down. The fact that I narrowed it down to 2 Pisgahs says something about how their banjos appeal to me.
If you like the look of wood, I think the Possum - and Pisgah's other models w/ wood fingerboards - really ought to be near the top of your list. If you prefer black fingerboards and black/spun pots, you might prefer a different model/make. For me, the sound and feel was the MOST important. I feel this Possum gave me incredible appearance as well.
Overall Rating: 10
'Checkerboard...again' 33 min
'Naked!' 3 hrs
'Good Saturday Morning' 3 hrs