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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.

Tanglewood: TWB Pro-4

Submitted by cockneybanjo on 8/1/2014

Where Purchased: Peterborough Music

Year Purchased: 2014
Price Paid: 295 (Pound Sterling) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Bought this because I have settled on 19-fret tenors and thought a CGDA tuning would be a nice conterpoint to my usual GDAE tuning. Sharp, bright sound, plenty if volume, good tone.

Sound Rating: not rated

Setup

Good set-up, no real issues. Been in stock a long time!

Setup Rating: 8

Appearance

Generally understated appearance. Basically a Chinese version of the Gremlin I bought second-hand three years ago. Definitely not up to the same standard on close inspection, areas like the inside if the pot are poorly finished and the flange is cheap-looking, plating could have been better prepared.

Appearance Rating: 7

Reliability

I think this banjo will show its age rather than mellow as the Gremlin has done. It certainly won't show the indestructible finish my Korean Gold Tone has.

Seems robust and reliable, though. I'd take it to a session on its own.

Reliability Rating: 7

Customer Service

No comment yet

Customer Service: not rated

Components

Nothing that stands out but I wouldn't have paid full price for the overall standard of finish. Judging by the number of them that are around at discount prices that seems to be a common view.

Components Rating: 6

Overall Comments

Superficially attractive instrument, heavy tube-and-flange "masterclone" with a good sound. I don't care for the black head and will probably change it at some point. Finish could, and should be better. On the whole though, for under £300 new its a robust-looking piece of kit which will probably serve me well 

Overall Rating: 7

Gremlin: 19-fret tenor

Submitted by cockneybanjo on 12/30/2011

Where Purchased: second-hand

Year Purchased: 2011
Price Paid: 250 (GBP) (bought USED) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

nice full sound and clear tone for the price point

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

set-up was fine,but it came from a semi-professional player who had looked after it well. No comment on the original set-up except that it came with a clear mylar head, which it still had.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

good standard of finish. Attractive brightwork and good colour and tone. Not over-flashy; simple fretboard markers and light engraving on the arm-rest. Resonator is fully finished inside, which is by no means always the case but is a necessary touch when used with a clear head.

This particular instrument seems to have spent quite a long time as unsold stock and then been sold to the aforesaid semi-professional who treated it well, so I feel justified in commenting on the finish.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

certainly looks the part, seems a robust piece of kit

Reliability Rating: 8

Customer Service

no comment. Never dealt with Hobgoblin.

Customer Service: not rated

Components

a nice looking piece, probably from Sammick around the 97-03 period and seems to have been designed to sell at about the same price point as the Gold Tone WL250. Solid, well-finished construction with cast tone-ring, heavy-duty tension hooks and tension ring, clam-shell type tailpiece seems straight and secure. Robust tube-and-flange construction rather than shoes bolted through the rim.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

a bit soon to say but looks a worthwhile piece of kit.

This was originally Hobgoblin's "house" brand, before they switched to Ashbury.

three years on and this is now my favourite travel and sessions instrument

Overall Rating: 9

Grafton: Banjo Uke

Submitted by cockneybanjo on 11/19/2008

Where Purchased: andy's banjos

Year Purchased: 2008
Price Paid: 195 (GBP) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

loud and bright. 8" Remo head and what look like Aquila strings give a nice bouncy tone with plenty of volume. Not up to the same quality as my pre-war Sovereign, but I didn't expect that anyway.

favourably received at a couple of club sessions I've taken it to.

Sound Rating: 8

Setup

good easy set-up. Low action and no buzzes or rattles.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

nice dark finish, similar to the 'treacle and araldite' finish on Korean Gold Tones.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

I've now had this instrument three years and it has had a hard life, stuffed in my bag whenever I needed a minimum size instrument for travelling. No complaints about how it is standing up. No chips, dings or flaking, rust or tarnish on the hardware.

Tuners are still a bit touchy but stable once adjusted.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

good service from Andy!

Customer Service: 10

Components

looks a solid all-round piece. Again, past experience of Graftons has been good

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

generally a copy of the pre-war Gibson UB3, if not up to Gibson standards of tone - but what do you expect at the price? nice value-for-money piece, well set-up, lacks the troublesome volute at the top of the neck often found on budget banjo ukes. Nice bright sound.

Three years on and it is a solid piece of kit with no bad habits, been around a fair bit; keeps its tone and plays well

Four years on and the tuners are showing signs of wear, with the G string slipping noticeably.

six years on and it's still in use. Finish shows a few minor dings and scrapes but nothing serious;   tuners still holding up

Overall Rating: 8

Gibson: RB-250

Submitted by cockneybanjo on 12/21/2007

Where Purchased: private sale

Year Purchased: 2007
Price Paid: 800 (£) (bought USED) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

just what I wanted. Dry, strong sound with lots of clarity, mellow when played gently

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

good set-up. Came from an experienced player and I haven't changed anything

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

general all-over patina from a well-used instrument. No rust or corrosion on metal parts. Chrome showing signs of years of polishing.. just a nice mellowed look Some 'buckle rash' on the resonator, but, well, that happens, it's not the instrument's faoult

Appearance Rating: 8

Reliability

hardware obviously has lasted and looks like it will go on doing so for a long time to come

Reliability Rating: 8

Customer Service

not relevant here

Customer Service: not rated

Components

good solid quality feel, no knocks, squeaks or buzzes anywhere

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

fair price for a solid second-hand banjo, from a quality maker ,which has been well looked after over a fairly long life. I'm really pleased with it. It has that Gibson 'pop' and what more can you ask? My teacher is a Deering man, and he is happy with it. It's far ahead of my previous 'starter' and 'intermediate' banjos, as I would expect; it's very different to my Gold Tone Whyte Ladye so the comparison isn't valid
If it was stolen I'd be pretty unhappy!!!!

 

seven years on and I have sold it on, having largely stopped playing 5-string banjo in favour of the tenor

Overall Rating: 9

Ozark: 2109G

Submitted by cockneybanjo on 9/5/2007

Where Purchased: RB Music, Aberdeen

Year Purchased: 2007
Price Paid: 185 (£) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

nice bright clear sound, reasonably loud. Nice shape neck.

good frailing and three-finger picking banjo, good lightweight knock-about instrument.

nice sweet tone. I have been comparing it to the Grafton Popular I started with, the Grafton has a darker tone.

Sound Rating: 8

Setup

set up by R&B, I collected it so no shipping issues. Not had it long enough to make any changes yet. Acquired a Gator hard case to carry it in, instead of the Ritter bag I bought with it.. sems to suit the guitar-type tuners better ie it is still more or less in tune when it comes out of the box.

Setup Rating: 8

Appearance

light blonde appearance... gentlemen prefer blondes! Minimal inlay, ozark logo on peghead, simple and neat. Grain on peghead could be better matched but that's a general comment on banjos at this price point, most of them have a scarf joint through the middle of the peghead

Appearance Rating: 8

Reliability

has developed a buzz up the neck, tapping the nut to reseat it has lessened this; cheap tailpiece is visibly bending. So, marks down for the hardware

3 years on and the cheap tension hooks are showing signs of deforming, but this doesn't seem a problem so far.

Reliability Rating: 6

Customer Service

R&B have a good reputation. Ozark, never dealt with them

Customer Service: 8

Components

no standout components but no obvious initial weak points either.

Cheap tailpiece started to bend after a few weeks, swapped this for a Nashville one which hasn't been an unqualified success. Tuners look and feel cheap but are holding up so far.

Geared 5th string peg is a nice detail.

Components Rating: 7

Overall Comments

good lightweight travelling banjo, I've variously heard it described as a 'Deering Goodtime knock-off' and a Gold Tone CC100 knock-off. Better spec than the Deering, truss rod and twin co-ordinator rods plus arm-rest all as standard. Cheaper than Gold Tone for an essentially very similar instrument.

definitely better than the 'el cheapo' bottom of the range Chinese stuff. You could get a plywood resonator and a load of cheapo 'pearloid' inlay for the same money, if that's what you want, but this is a better value buy.

Would I buy another if it was stolen? Don't know. I have a Grafton Popular which costs the same, sounds as least as good and has planetary tuners, but doesn't have the blonde appearance... minor niggles mean it has tended to come and go in favour.

marked it down to a 7 after a year or so. Buzzy neck comes and goes, although some experimentation with string gauges and a compensated bridge seems to have cured it for now.

Overall Rating: 7

Gold Tone: White Ladye WL-250

Submitted by cockneybanjo on 6/1/2007

Where Purchased: Andy's Banjos

Year Purchased: 2007
Price Paid: 485 (£) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

lovely sweet tone, really rings out but can be played very softly with no loss of tone. This one is a short-neck A-scale one, 23 1/2" scale length, so I haven't tried it on a G tuning yet.

3 years on and the G tuning with heavy strings as recommended, didn't really ring my bell and I've gone back to the A tuning.

I've also found that using a capo above the 5th fret isn't particularly attractive, not that it's something you do very often in a frailing style.

4 years on and now using medium strings and tuned in aDADE, which seems to suit it

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

just fitted the bridge and tuned it.. .. no other changes yet. Feels very natural, easy action and good 'feel'. Swapped to a Shubb compensated bridge and that seems to suit it.

Had it serviced and thoroughly cleaned lately at Andy's Banjos. It came back with a Renaissance head which seems a good thing to have.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

nice old-timey appearance, solid quality finish and good trim.. just looks so good on the stand in the corner!

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

seems very solid

three years on and a lot of travel to various parts of the world, playing under the helideck in West Africa, in a few jams and a lot of time in the erratic climate control found on many vessels. Finish on both woodwork and hardware is still good, apart from noticeable wear on the arm-rest plating.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

can't comment on Gold Tone but Andy's service has been remarked on elsewhere, knows his stuff and makes sensible recommendations, then sends a good instrument quickly. What more do you want?

Customer Service: 10

Components

very nice example of a particular type of instrument. Not a bluegrass 'clanger' but just a quailty item all round if you want that sort of instrument

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

Good value, not a cheapie but I felt I was ready for a step up and knew what I wanted... So far, so good. Would I buy another one? YES! If it was stolen? Buy another one! Definitely a step up from the Grafton, but so it should be for the extra $$$.

18 months on and it is now my main travel banjo. The 23 1/2" neck means it is just about short enough for airline carry-ons, and the A tuning suits playing with guitar players with no interest in bluegrass or often, traditional country either; but you can hold your own with the folk and country players of you want to. Good for plectrum-style strumming, too.

now has a Shubb compensated bridge which is really well suited to it.

seven years on and this is still a favourite. Don't play it much but I always look for it when I get home, and it makes some session appearances from time to time

 

Overall Rating: 9

Grafton: Popular

Submitted by cockneybanjo on 1/4/2007

Where Purchased: Banjo Workshop

Year Purchased: 2006
Price Paid: 185 (GBP) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

nice loud, bright sound. Plenty of tone, with resonator or without. Andy knows his product and sets it up 'according'

Sound Rating: 8

Setup

no changes necessary, just needed the strings tightening and tuning. Andy Perkins' work at the Banjo Works has been mentioned elsewhere and I really can't add to what's already been said.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

good understated appearance, I don't really go for flashy 'pearloid' inlays etc. 'Grafton' logo on peghead is a bit tacky but lots of low- to mid-end banjos have this sort of thing.

No major flaws in the appearance but over time, and a hard life as a travelling instrument, the 'satin' finish has bloomed a little.

Appearance Rating: 7

Reliability

finish seems good and robust , apart from a slight 'blooming' after some hard travel to various parts opf the world. Tuners are planetary, not guitar type, with geared 5th peg so no problems with the tuning varying.

It's very dependable but whether it is a sufficient banjo for gigging, I wouldn't comment.

Reliability Rating: 8

Customer Service

good quick service from someone who really knows his subject, no complaints

Customer Service: 10

Components

no real stand-out components but generally good quality hardware and no obvious weaknesses either. Clamshell type tailpiece has stood up better than the cheap Straightline or Waverley types found on some instruments at this price point, planetary tuners, geared fifth peg, Remo head .. tone ring is clear although I have heard better

finish on woodwork could be better in a couple of places

Components Rating: 8

Overall Comments

good solid banjo with enough quality to lift it above the low-end imports and justify the price. My teacher liked it! I'm new to banjos but I have two children who play guitar and violin so I know a thing or two about 'cheap' and 'rather better' instruments.

Five years on and I keep it as a stand-by instrument, it has spent long periods stashed away for use in my travels, and also went to Oz with my nephew.

I do notice that the current versions of this instrument are significantly different, consisting of frailing and resonator variants with basically the same neck and different pots, heads and tailpieces - mine is the original version, now the resonator version; as I've increasingly concentrated on frailing, I've moved away from it but comparing the current frailing version with other clawhammer instruments, I'd probably make more use of it if I had a current-spec one

Overall Rating: 8

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