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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!

6891 reviews in the archive.

Bridges: Kateyz

Submitted by roy.carpenter on 6/2/2008

Where Purchased: Janet Davis

Overall Comments

I don't have a huge amount of experience, but I've bought a grover bridge, owned a goodtime bridge, made my own, and had two beefy factory bridges, one that came with my Fender FB 58. The Kateyz 3/5 Crowe spacing is the clearly the best in terms of volume and clarity up the neck. Strangely, the Fender factory is a close second, the difference being more in pronunciation way up the neck than in volume. If you're working with a grover or Goodtime or Washburn factory issue, the Kateyz will make a huge difference. Looks cool, too.

Overall Rating: 9

Fender: FB-58

Submitted by roy.carpenter on 1/22/2008

Where Purchased: Musikhaus Hermann

Year Purchased: 2008
Price Paid: 470 (euros) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Excellent sound - bright and loud right up the neck.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

Pefect setup. I don't know if it was Musikhaus Hermann or the Fender factory that did the setup, but there was nothing to do aside from placing the bridge. Before it arrived I had gotten out my manual on how to adjust double coordinator rods, but there's no need to do anything at all. I've read a lot of reviews where people discover a small gap where the neck meets the pot, but mine is perfectly flat against the pot, no spaces or need for shims, tightening or anything. On my previous banjos, there was always a problem with pulling on the neck and bending the notes unintentionally, whereas the Fender fb 58 is like a rock. This is the 5th banjo I've bought by mail and the first one that didn't need to be adjusted at all.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

It's absolutely beautiful to my eyes. I actually have a Chinese version (so I can't really speak for the Korean one, though I imagine Fender applies the same quality control standard) and the head has a leaf sort of motive for the inlay, as opposed the spaghetti design that you see on most websites (which I like, too). It also has flying eagle inlay on the fretboard, perfectly done with absolutely no blemishes or errors. One thing I like about the Fender is that they have their own head cut design, unlike a lot of other brands in this price-range: if you look closely at Morgan Monroe, Savannah, Johnson, Fullerton, etc., you end up seeing the exact same banjos with different brand names on the head. That isn't necessarily bad, but I like the idea that Fender decided to make their own banjo rather than just getting the same Asian factory to put their name on the same banjo they're already making for their competitors.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

It's a very heavy instrument with the brass alloy tone ring and everything seems very solid for now. A lot of people mention changing the tuners, but even they appear good for now. I've also read a lot of reviews that complain about the solidity of the clamshell tail pieces. Mine appears very solid and does not rattle or make any noise at all. I have no intention of changing anything except perhaps the bridge, and that more out of curiosity about other bridges than because I am disatisfied with this one.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

It took me a few months of agonizing about whether I had the money and what kind I should get, which influenced where I would buy it. The selection is much more limited in Europe, but with the low dollar, we can afford to pay the value-added tax and have one sent over. In the end it was the great email contact I had with this German store (which is also on ebay). They responded to all my stupid questions the same day and sent it out the same day I ordered it. They don't have a huge selection of banjos, but what they say is in stock is actually in stock and their prices are very competetive - a least for Europe. The only problem is that their site is in German, which if you don't speak the language, is a bit of a barrier, but they write in perfect English in their emails.

Customer Service: 10

Components

As I mentioned in the reliability section, I don't intend to upgrade anything, personally, except maybe the bridge. Everything is solid and quite heavy.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

I would recommend this banjo without hesitation, especially to anyone in Europe looking for a real bluegrass banjo with double coordinator rods, solid or 3-ply maple pot, a real cast tone ring, maple neck with truss rod, planetary tuners. The only thing that's too bad is that a case doesn't come with as with the Fender fb 59. But at Fendershop.com in Belgium, they sell it with a case. Only they didn't seem to have their own warehouse. I'm not sure.
At first, I was against getting a Fender because I thought they were getting away from their specialty, electric guitars, but I am delighted with this instrument. As mentioned above, it seems to me that they decided to make a good, honest banjo that was their own style and they succeeded. People are always writing that "this instrument is comparable to other much more expensive models." I don't know about that, but I do see that Fender decided not to go crazy making 100 different models, they pretty much made 2 professional level models, one maple, one walnut (with gold plating), neither of which cost more than $ 1,000, and personally I like that idea. They just made a good instrument at a good price without going over the top with decorations and variations of styles. (They don't make any openbacks, for instance). They kept it relatively simple, but good and affordable. It may not measure up to the Fenders of the 60s or 70s or a Gibson, but as far as my experience goes, it's a solid instrument that is loud and has great tone.

Overall Rating: 10

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