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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!

7063 reviews in the archive.

Capos: Earl's Suspender Capo

Submitted by erstokke on 1/30/2013

Where Purchased: Online

Overall Comments

Don't be fooled, this capo is not made by Earl Scruggs. On my Recording King banjo it is completely useless. It is not properly in place and does not do a good job capoing the 5th string. Get spikes, they are simple and works.

Overall Rating: 1

Digital Tuners: Peterson StroboClip

Submitted by erstokke on 1/30/2013

Where Purchased: Janet Davis

Overall Comments

This is a very special tuner, 10 times more accurate than most other clip on tuners. It has a thin aluminium layer on a plastic body. This makes it look more rugged than it really is. On the first one I had, the rotating part of the clip broke. But this is a very nice company, so they sent me a new one which has been fine. But anyway, take care, this is a precision instrument.

In use, the strobe stripes turn right when tone is sharp, left when flat. You can be pretty sure that it is in tune when the stripes has more or less stopped. One really cool thing about is, is that it has tempered tunings for several instruments, and banjo is one of them. Sometimes, readout can be hard and I have to dampen the other strings to keep the strobe turning like crazy.

Overall Rating: 8

Recording King: ne plus ultra 036

Submitted by erstokke on 11/9/2009

Where Purchased: Centsible Sounds

Year Purchased: 2009
Price Paid: 920 ($US)

Sound

It has a Whyte Laydie Tone Ring which makes it "medium bright". Properly setup it will sound just fine. It is an all round openback banjo.

Sound Rating: 7

Setup

The banjo head was loosened so there was not much sound at all. Even worse, they hadn’t released the tailpiece first, so the tailpiece fastener was bent. The banjo was not set up.

You may want a Renaissance head on this banjo instead of the supplied Fiberskyn.

Setup Rating: 1

Appearance

It has a lot of inlays on the fretboard. Which would have been great if the job was properly done. I got a lemon with several flaws which just made the inlays look gaudy. The nut was also too small for the notch. There were also minor flaws in the finish.

This banjo is called "Ne Plus Ultra" which means perfection.

Appearance Rating: 2

Reliability

I returned the banjo.

Reliability Rating: not rated

Customer Service

I got an email from Greg Rich saying they would get me a hand picked replacement banjo. After two or three weeks they still hadn’t found one, so I returned the banjo and got my money back. They did not cover my return shipping expenses, which I found unfair.

Customer Service: 5

Components

My RK-R80 bluegrass banjo has Grover tuners which are great. The Ne Plus Ultra did not have the same quality tuners. According to the specifications it should have a Kershner tailpiece, but it was delivered with a "no-knot".

Components Rating: 5

Overall Comments

Most reviews here are 9 or 10 because people are excited about their new banjo. I think it is only fair to post a story about a lemon as well. Most other Ne Plus Ultras reviewed here are "Made in Korea", while mine was "Made in China". But what puzzles me most, is how on earth this banjo made it through factory, importer and dealer QC. Anyway, the lesson to be learned is to buy from a good dealer and ask them specific to inspect and set up the banjo before shipping. I bought from a small family run company that are very nice people, but they didn’t know a thing about banjos.

If I should buy an asian Whyte Laydie again, I would probably get the Gold Tone WL 250 which is basically the same banjo but much cheaper.

Overall Rating: 3

Centsible Sounds

Submitted by erstokke on 9/23/2009

Overall Comments

They are a family run business. Their prices and customer service is personal and friendly, but they know next to nothing about banjos. I bought a defective Recording King banjo from them which I had to return across the Atlantic. They returned the value of the banjo, but I lost $200 shipping expenses which they refused to cover. If it was me just wanting an other banjo, I could understand, but this specific banjo should never have passed factory QC, importer QC or store QC.

My advice: Buy from someone who knows what a banjo is and get a proper set-up.

Overall Rating: 4

Rounder: Alison Krauss - Union Station Live

Submitted by erstokke on 2/4/2008

Where Purchased: www.play.com

Overall Comments

All alone in a hotel room in Helsinki, Finland, I started up the old iBook and the DVD "Alison Krauss and Union Station Live" which I haven't seen before. What a great performance!

This supergroup is great because there seems not be competition between the musicians, they are all contributing to the total musical experience.

Jerry Douglas - "the world's greatest dobro player - ever". No need to say anything more.
Dan Tyminsky - Great voice, great fun, "the one of the Soggy Mtn Boys with the soggiest bottom".
Barry Bales the bass player - steady as a rock and great singing, too.
BHO's own Ron Block, Not looking much at the audience, but communicating through really great playing on both banjo and guitar. And singing, too.
And of course Alison with her natural down to earth ways of communicating with the audience. Great fiddle playing and the voice of an angel.

The theatre is great, sound and pictures are great - this is just a very good music DVD.

I think AKUS is doing a great job bringing bluegrass music to a new level. And there are no cowboy hats!

Overall Rating: 10

Other: Nechville Comfort Bevel Armrest

Submitted by erstokke on 1/6/2008

Where Purchased: Janet Davis

Overall Comments

Take a look at the way your arm rests at the armrest. It is probably resting on the edge. The Nechville Comfort Bevel Armrest is beveled so your arm rests on a much larger surface. Very comfortable. In addition, the wood (oak) feels warm and there is no risk of nickel allergy. If you later want to sell your banjo, you can just remount the original armrest - which will still look like the day you took it off.

The armrest is made for Nechville Helimount banjos, but it fits most banjos.

On my Recording King banjo, I had to modify the armrest a little with a knife, because it touched the banjo head. I take off one point for that.

Overall Rating: 9

Other: Gold Tone Banjo Mute

Submitted by erstokke on 11/18/2007

Where Purchased: Janet Davis

Overall Comments

This mute works and is simple and inexpensive. I had to bend mine to make it fit to my Scorpion bridge. If it is too tight, you risk moving the bridge sideways when mounting it. It does not interfere with your right hand picking.

The mute works by adding weight to the bridge, as most other mutes. The backside of this is that it increases sustain, so my banjo sounds more like a dobro.

Conclusion: Not as good as playing without a mute, but much better than a divorce.

Overall Rating: 7

Straps: Neotech Super banjo strap

Submitted by erstokke on 11/18/2007

Where Purchased: Janet Davis

Overall Comments

If you feel that your resonator banjo is heavy, get the Neotech Super Strap. It is made of neoprene, which makes it soft and flexible. It is very comfortable, and your banjo feels a lot lighter.

It is also very easy to detach from your banjo when putting the banjo into the banjo case.

There is also the Mega strap which is longer. Unless you are exceptionally tall, get the Super.

The only downside is that you dont get that natural leather look and feel.

Overall Rating: 9

Tuners: Intelli MT500

Submitted by erstokke on 11/18/2007

Where Purchased: Janet Davis

Overall Comments

The Intelli MT500 works great and is inexpensive. It works by contact, which makes it possible to tune in noisy environments. It is also backlit, so you can use it in the dark.

Downsides: The buttons rattle, so I cannot keep it on my banjo while playing. It is not extremely precise, so I don´t use it for studio work. Also, it is not very quick.

Great tuner for the money.

Overall Rating: 7

Tony Trischka: All Star Bluegrass Jam Along - Banjo

Submitted by erstokke on 11/3/2007

Where Purchased: Amazon

Overall Comments

You get a TAB book with arrangements for 21 "essential" tunes. The song selection is very good, there are many nice songs with a good melody line. A lot of them use more than three chords.

The songs are in different keys, and for many of them you have to use a capo. There are even three watzes. The TABs are first basic versions, then solo/up the neck versions. The up the neck versions are often in melodic style. The TABs are very good, and the banjo arrangements are a little different - better - from what I find in other books that I have.

Then to the CD. There is one track for each song. Each track has bass, guitar and mandolin all the way through. First, the song is played with banjo in a basic version, then up the neck, then backup banjo (mostly pinch) and then without any banjo - you jam along yourself. Tempo is moderate to slow.

Tony Trischka´s banjo playing is really beautiful. It is very clean and right on time all the way. You will enjoy just listening to the CD. His banjo sounds great!

Sound quality is great, but you might like or dislike that the backup band is in the left channel and the banjo alone to the right. The benefit of this, is that you can listen to the left channel only to get the backing band playing without Tony Trischka.

The really great new thing about this book/CD, is that there are versions for banjo, fiddle, mandolin, guitar and bass. This must be the best way to start a bluegrass band. Let each band member rehearse with their own book. When you meet, you are all ready to jam!

Overall Rating: 10

Janet Davis Music

Submitted by erstokke on 9/22/2007

Overall Comments

I sent them an email about a sub $1000 banjo and they never answered. I guess I could have phoned, but never did.

All the banjo accessories I have ordered from them, has been completely satifactory.

Overall Rating: 9

The Mandolinstore

Submitted by erstokke on 9/22/2007

Overall Comments

You will find the Mandolin Store at http://www.themandolinstore.com. As the name says, they are specialists on mandolins, but they have a couple of banjos as well.

It is a small company, and they do everything they can to keep the customers satisfied. Dennis, who runs the store, answered my emails very quickly, and I once had a problem with the mic in a mandolin that they fixed to my complete satisfaction.

Their slogan is nothing less than "The Most Helpful Store on the Planet" - and it's true!
Prices are right, too.

Overall Rating: 10

Recording King: RK-80

Submitted by erstokke on 7/10/2007

Where Purchased: Private

Year Purchased: 2007
Price Paid: 790 ($US) (bought USED)

Sound

This is banjo has the "real" bluegrass sound. It can be tweaked by setup to suit your taste. It is very responsive. It is loud, so you can bring it to a jam-session.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The banjo was bought used, and setup was just fine. The previous owner had installed a Scorpion bridge.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

Some people think RKs are "loud" looking as well. I think it looks very nice. It does not look like every other banjo. Finish is glossy and perfect. The fretboad is real ebony, and mine has a brown beauty-spot between frets 18 and 21 which I just think adds personality.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

Hardware seems to be top quality. Build quality seems to be very high.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

You can meet the company´s representative Greg Rich and Scott Zimmerman right here at banjohangout. They are very serious about having satisfied customers. Mine was bought used, so the lifetime warranty does not apply. This doesn´t bother me at all - I don´t think I ever will need any warranty on this banjo.

Customer Service: 10

Components

The banjo has excellent Gotoh tuners. There is no need to replace any components on this banjo.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

If you are looking for a banjo above "entry level", this is the one to get. At the price, it is a steal, and you will have to pay three times more for a better banjo.

Overall Rating: 10

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