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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!

7077 reviews in the archive.

Companion Custom Banjos: Joe Robert

Submitted by cottontop on 8/4/2016

Where Purchased: Companion Custom Banjos

Year Purchased: 2016
Price Paid: 1500 ($US)

Sound

The sound is rich and full with bright highs and mellow lows. It is perfect for my playing and singing of folk ballads. The wooden (hard maple) tone ring gives it this mellow "woody" sound. Yet, I won'I feel the least bit inadequate at a bluegrass jam.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

I had it set up for just a hair over 1/8" at the 12th fret with an 11/16 bridge for my claw/Seeger style of playing when playing and singing. I can switch it out with a 5/8 bridge if I want to and then play bluegrass all night.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

The neck and resonator is a highly figured maple with a reddish stain and high gloss finish that is absolutely beautiful. However, they can make it any way you want it. The fret board even has some interesting flashes of light grained figure. I chose a leaves and bows inlay pattern, with my name on a pearloid block inletted, yet, you can choose any inlay pattern you want.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

This banjo will last forever. The finish seems heavy duty ready for the long haul. I will play it without taking a back up with me.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Chris kept me informed all along the way with pictures and videos of each stage of completion of my banjo. You can't get any better service than that.

Customer Service: 10

Components

The components are all top notch, first grade. Nothing cheap about any of it.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

If you want a custom made banjo, maybe even your dream banjo, you cannot go wrong with a Companion Custom Banjo from Chris Sorenson. His craftsmanship and the quality of the build is as good as you will find anywhere, beautiful to boot, and all at a fair price. It even came with a hard shell case and it shipped from Michigan to Florida in four days after it was completed.

Overall Rating: 10

Bridges: Bridges

Submitted by cottontop on 10/31/2015

Where Purchased: Stringbean45 (Don)

Overall Comments

I just tried a new Douglas Fir Spillway Dam 5/8 std. spacing bridge from Stringbean45 on my Recording King K-80. I am blown away by the improvement in sound. Just by looking at this bridge, I thought it would add a more dull woody sound, but not so. The banjo is bright, very "bluegrassy" and loud; much louder than before. I just can't praise this bridge enough, and at a great price, what is not to like. Don is a great guy and a great craftsman.

Overall Rating: 10

Bridges: David Cunningham bridge

Submitted by cottontop on 10/31/2015

Where Purchased: DC Banjoworks

Overall Comments

I just tried a new David Cunningham Zebra/Katalox .615 bridge on my Fender Artist. I have to say that this is a great bridge. The Height is perfect for this banjo and its set up and the sound is exactly what I want from a 40 year old banjo. This bridge has given it new life. Davis is a great craftsman and can make a bridge out of a wide selection of woods and at any height or spacing you want. His prices are great too.

Overall Rating: 10

Recording King: Dirty 30's Open Back

Submitted by cottontop on 7/12/2015

Where Purchased: Capo's Music

Year Purchased: 2015
Price Paid: 239 ($US)

Sound

This has a deep ghostly dull sound that I like.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

Was set up perfectly. Did not have to do anything to it.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Has an old time antique look.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

All the hardware is solid and made to last.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Capo's was friendly and the service was fast. I can't remember what the warranty is, but the banjo is so well made that I will never use the warranty anyway.

Customer Service: 10

Components

I love the look of the head. I did replace the bridge as I almost always replace beidges anyway, just to seewhat different sounds I can get. I replaced the guitar tuners with banjo planetary tuners as I just like the look. I also replaced the tailpiece with a No-Knot just because I like the look on the open back. These changes were not necessary, I just made them more for cosmetic reasons.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

If you are looking for an inexpensive open back that has an old time sound that you can practice or perform with, this is it.

Overall Rating: 9

Bridges: Steve Davis Maple/Ebony 5/8 Compensated

Submitted by cottontop on 5/16/2015

Where Purchased: Directly from Steve Davis

Overall Comments

I was having intonation/tuning problems with one of my open back banjos. Steve Davis suggested his 5/8 compensated bridge. It is a beautiful bridge and it solved the intonation problems and really brings out the sound of this open back. A great bridge at a great price for a custom hand made example of banjo bridge art. Steve's personal attention and fast service was greatly appreciated.

cottontop

Overall Rating: 10

Zachary Hoyt: Cherry 5 String Open Back #16

Submitted by cottontop on 5/15/2015

Where Purchased: Direct from Zachary Hoyt

Year Purchased: 2015
Price Paid: $650 historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

I expected a hollow type open back sound, but was pleasantly surprised by its fairly bright sound; i.e., not to loud, but not dull at all. Play it toward the bridge and you will get a brighter blue grass type sound; play it closer to the neck and the sound mellows out a bit. I feel that for me, it is the perfect compromise. I'm sure the block rim adds to this banjo's projection and great sound.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The banjo was perfectly set up and required nothing but minor tuning up and it was ready to play. The playability and action is perfect. The strings are just the right height from the fret board; not too high and not too low. The handmade bridge looks almost too simple, but no need to change it as I believe it lends to the bright sound. The banjo was also very well wrapped and packaged for shippment.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

The banjo has a Tru-Oil finish that is a kind of semi gloss. I have used Tru-Oil on gun stocks and it is good stuff. The banjo is absolutely beautiful as I believe that its intrinsic simplicity lends to its over all beauty. The cherry wood is lighter than I thought it would be, but not as light as maple (which to me is almost too light in color). I would describe it as looking a bit like maple, but with a reddish hue. Simple maple dots on the jabota wood fret board adds to its simple yet functional design, and a beautiful and functional block rim lends to its great sound and good looks. I found no flaws in the finish.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

I know for a fact that Tru-Oil is a great durable finish as I have used it myself for years on other items. It will last. The hardware looks like it is quality stuff and not cheap or chinzy at all. I like the No-Knot tail piece. I would not hesitate to take this banjo to the coffee houses where I have performed in Tampa for years with no back up. I think it will be completely dependable.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Zachary Hoyt is an honest standup guy. We communicated via emails for several days before I finally bought the banjo. I know that if anything should go wrong with the banjo, he will make it right, but I don't expect any problems. Zachary's shipping is also extremely fast. I paid for the banjo on Wednesday and received it on Friday.

Customer Service: 10

Components

There is nothing cheap about this banjo at all. The 5-Star tuners are great and so is the No-Knot tailpiece. The brackets are solid also.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

For a beautiful looking and sounding open back with a simple elegance at a very reasonable price, you can't go wrong whether you are going to play in a concert hall or on the back porch. This banjo and I am sure that any other banjo that Zachary Hoyt makes is a one of a kind piece of original American folk art that anyone will be proud to own and proud to play. One could not find a better open back for even a lot more money. I believe that Zachary Hoyt will become one of the premier banjo makers of our time.

Overall Rating: 10

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