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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!

6986 reviews in the archive.

Trinity River: Drifter PRB75

Submitted by Dan Gellert on 10/25/2013

Where Purchased: ebay (clevelandpawn)

Year Purchased: 2013
Price Paid: 185 ($US)

Sound

It's a bottom-of-the-line Chinese-made banjo. What do you expect?

After considerable tweaking it sounds quite pleasant to my ears, though of course not particularly loud, punchy or rich-toned. I do have a certain fondness for the sound of a cheap, lightweight banjo... so much fine oldtime music has been made on them.

My wife bought it on a whim, interested in learning some old-time finger style, and as I've got it set up now, it sounds best played that way.

Sound Rating: 5

Setup

It's a bottom-of-the-line Chinese-made banjo. What do you expect?

Since this one came without any shop setup, I'd expect to have to redo the nut and bridge , maybe shim the neck to get the angle right, level the frets a bit...

First the good news: the neck angle seems spot-on as do the frets. Super! The nut and bridge slots were, as expected, too close together for my taste-- no problem. Saw, file...fixed.

Of course, the very first thing you have to do with a brand-new banjo is tighten the head. PROBLEM! To put it simply, the bracket shoes were installed on the rim very wrongly, making it impossible for the brackets to function, and also assuring that the rim would be damaged if I had attempted to tighten them.

I remedied that by installing a #6 washer under the head of each bracket-shoe bolt, and two #8 washers as spacers between the shoe and the rim, after which the shoes were secure on the rim, and the brackets worked as intended.

Also, the innermost ply of the rim was coming loose in several spots, which I corrected with a bit of Titebond and a whole bunch of little clamps.

Besides widening the string spacing at the bridge, I reduced the bridge's width (not its thickness).

Covered the inside back of the resonator with a sheet of bubble wrap, held in place by a ~3" square block of foam which pushes up against the rim rod (not the head). I have a ~1" triangular-prism shaped bit of foam with a flat side against the rim-rod and an edge just touching the back of the head, approximately in the center.

Setup Rating: 2

Appearance

It's a bottom-of-the-line Chinese-made banjo. What do you expect?

It isn't near as ugly as it could be.

The reddish-brown sunburst matte finish may say "cheap", but does so quietly and with a modicum of dignity.

Its most distinctive visual feature is its off-center dot inlays, which I kind of like.

Appearance Rating: 6

Reliability

It's a bottom-of-the-line Chinese-made banjo. What do you expect?

It's marketed as a "travel" banjo, and I think it could handle a bit of knocking around. The resonator is fairly sturdy, and provides some protection for the pot assembly, which is seems a bit on the flimsy side.


Reliability Rating: not rated

Customer Service

It's a bottom-of-the-line Chinese-made banjo. What do you expect?

With a $185 banjo, I don't ask those questions.
I open the box, give it a good looking at, and either:
1. think I can (and would like to) make a playable instrument out of what's there, in which case the teardown begins and warranty be damned. or...
2. put it back in the box and send it back.

Customer Service: not rated

Components

It's a bottom-of-the-line Chinese-made banjo. What do you expect?

The 4 cheapo worm-gear headstock tuners could be better, but they do the job. It does have a geared 5th peg, which does NOT work very smoothly. Eventually, I'll get around to disassembling them all and seeing what I can do in the way of adjustment and lubrication. Better tuners would be an improvement, but aren't an immediate necessity.

As I said, the neck is straight and well-fitted to the pot, but it is a bit narrow for me, and the 5th string pip is definitely placed too close to the bass string.

Components Rating: 4

Overall Comments

Important info (that I haven't seen anywhere in ads for this banjo!):

This is an "A-scale" banjo (~23"), just 2 frets shorter than a standard Gibson scale.   

With the right strings it ought to work tolerably well at standard G pitch, unlike shorter "pony"/banjeaurine/"C-scale" instruments.

How do I rate an instrument that costs about 1/10 the price of a basic pro-grade banjo?  In some ways, it's a decent instrument and a better-than-decent bargain.  In other ways, it's junk! 

With the necessary setup and assembly modifications, it ought to be a cute, serviceable, and portable banjo.  Right out of the box, though, this particular one at least was structurally unsound and quite incapable of playing or sounding as it should.

If you order one, consider it a DIY project.

It's a bottom-of-the-line Chinese-made banjo.  What do you expect?

Overall Rating: 5

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