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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!

6950 reviews in the archive.

Seeders Instruments: #13

Submitted by DEmery on 3/8/2013

Where Purchased: Builder

Year Purchased: 2013
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

The banjo suits my playing very well. The Whyte Laydie tone ring is mounted on a 5/8" three ply maple rim with a premium Balch Hide Head and produces a balanced tone with excellent projection. There is absolutely nothing to dislike about the tone, projection, and balance of this banjo.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

It was set up very well but I prefer a Tim Purcell bridge and GHS 150 strings along with a skin head. There was nothing other than prefernce that required these changes. The banjo is very easy to play and the changes were easy to do.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Will Seeders Mosheim grew up in a family of fine furniture builders and is at home in the shop. This becomes obvious when looking at the execution of this banjo. There are no flaws in the build from the hard oil finish, aged brass relic finish, and ebonized rim. Inlay is delicate and tasteful and the very figured maple in the neck well selected.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

All hardware and tuners are top grade professional and nothing is less a player would want to see on a banjo.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Will has been very supportive in the process of purchasing and there is no reason to suspect he wouldn't fully honor any warranty issues should they occur. On his website he encourages any repairs at any time are preferred to be handled by the builder to promote his understanding should there be an issue to address.

Customer Service: 10

Components

See Reliability above.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

Will is a new builder compared to most and has only been building a few years from his shop in Vermont. I purchased the banjo due to the quality of his work and great appearance of the banjo. I own banjos from several highly recognized builders and the Seeders #13 is equal to any of them in detail, quality, and musical capacity of the instrument. I expect to see his banjos around for years as players become familiar with hs work.

Overall Rating: 10

Bridges: Purcell Bridge

Submitted by DEmery on 7/27/2012

Where Purchased: Tim Purcell

Overall Comments

Tim's bridges are traditionally built for bluegrass banjos and are made from select woods, controlled by mass, and nicely designed. Bridges I have gotten are built of woods more specifically built for open back banjos using spruce and locust capped with Gabon ebony. Of the bridges I have used, Tim's produce more volume, and tone than others used over many years of playing banjo. Too, Tim is a responsive and friendly BHO member to deal with during the purchase process.

Overall Rating: 10

Jeff Menzies: Tack Head 12"

Submitted by DEmery on 1/20/2012

Where Purchased: Trade

Year Purchased: 2012
Price Paid: Don't Remember (bought USED) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Deep open sound. It had a synthetic string that was fine but a little thin. After trying LaBella gut that didn't work well; a set of Nylgut strings seems to be a good solution to let this banjo's voice respond well.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

Set up is rather common for this type of banjo. It comes with different bridges and the lower bridge tends to make it most comfortable.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

Beautiful. Claro walnut neck and very nice bent rim all finished in a rich brown stain. It is a very pretty piece and well done.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

It appears to be well built and should perform for many years with normal use.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Traded and have not dealt with Jeff but I did drop an email asking about this specific banjo and he immediately responded. Jeff has a great reputation and I am confident if something is needed he would be helpful.

Customer Service: 10

Components

This is a tack head and has few parts I would consider as components. It does have peg-head tuners. This is new to me and I like them with gut strings. I did have some slippage but found a thread suggesting a little pressure on the peg tightens them up and it did .

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I have two Knowles minstrels and this is a short scale banjo that is a lot of fun and looks great with my group of banjos. Jeff provides a great banjo for the prices seen when they are for sale. In this case it was part of a trade and I am very pleased to have a tack head from Jeff.

Overall Rating: 9

Dan Knowles: Sherry Lynne

Submitted by DEmery on 10/29/2011

Where Purchased: Builder Dan Knowles

Year Purchased: 2007
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

This is a complete ebony banjo. It has a block rim and the sound is large, warm, extreme projection, balanced, and strong all the up/down the fingerboard. I have nothing or have heard nothing that sounds as clear and musical and my best description of the notes is very polished.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Perfect as Dan's banjos tend to be upon opening from the case.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

This banjo was a long project that took many twists and turns. The ebony is bound in curly maple and maccasare. The finish is french polish varnish. We focused on wood and sound so inlay was left off other than simply Cubley designed pinwheels from the 1800s. The result is beautiful.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Rickard hardware for the most part including a WL tone ring. Dan hand machined each shoe to get a result he was imagining. All is best in quality.Simple and attractive.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

It takes a while to get a quality banjo from any individual builder. All along the way Dan is open to conversation, changes, and exercising his creative eye in design. It is always fun to work with Dan. If there was a higher score on the survey I would give it to Dan.

Customer Service: 10

Components

See comments under reliability.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

This banjo was a total experiment and we had no basis for how an ebony rim would sound. There was naysayers about the use of non traditional woods and in the end it sounds and plays better than any of us might have imagined. Dan has been building for many years and he feels this is the strongest banjo he has produced. My friend John Balch as commented many times it may be the strongest banjo he has every played in many ways. I am proud to own it.

Overall Rating: 10

J.L. Sproull: Sproull Woody #005

Submitted by DEmery on 10/27/2011

Where Purchased: Trade

Year Purchased: 2011
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Tone is warm, balanced, and has plenty of projection/volume. It has no harsh overtone is a very musical old time style sound.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Got the banjo on a trade. For my taste the action was too high and simply required a lower bridge. Everything from nut to tail piece is perfect with a bridge adjustment.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Simple design. Excellent wood choice. It has a tasteful frailer notch at the 5th string peg. Finish is perfect. Looks and feels like an old banjo with no flaws.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

I see nothing weak, cheaply built, or assembled that would lead me to believe this banjo won't be reliable for years to come.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Spoke to the builder after acquiring the banjo. He was friendly and followed up with information. Based on my experience Lee would be a fine fellow to work with should anyone want him to build a banjo.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Lee used antique brass Rickard components. I have Rickard parts on other banjos and they are top notch in design and finish.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

The more I play this banjo the more I appreciate the straight forward design and quality. This banjo has a different voice compared to my other banjos and is an excellent addition to my collection that are used daily.

Overall Rating: 10

Dan Knowles: 1840 Jacobs Copy

Submitted by DEmery on 10/25/2011

Where Purchased: Builder Dan Knowles

Year Purchased: 2010
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Deep, hollow, and warm tone. Plenty of volume and as a minstrel an excellent projection.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Perfect as it came from Dan as all his banjos are upon opening from the box.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Dan restored (made playable with no impact on appearance) a Jacobs from the 1840's. Dan reproduced my banjo down to the rust and scratches of the original. It is difficult to tell it from the original Jacobs but was built with some angel on the neck set to make it a player. Dan builds fine finished professional banjos or can us his artistic ability to age a banjo to confuse the experts.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Appears as reliable as one could expect in a minstrel. The finish is made to appear old and age should only make it look older.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Dan fixes anything he builds if it is a failure due to design or construction. I have several of Dan Knowles' banjos and have never had a flaw or issue. He is one of the most helpful, knowledgeable fellows one could hope to deal with and is impeccably honest in producing a great value. The top score is 10 in this survey; but I give him an 11.

Customer Service: 10

Components

All hand made to be like originals from the time period.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

This is a super minstrel banjo and was a fun project. There are many builders that produce outstanding banjos but Dan falls into a category to himself. If you are looking for a concept banjo built from ideas with lots of input from the buyer looking for creative ways to interpreting design...Dan is a builder to work with to get a special banjo.

Overall Rating: 10

Flesher: Jubilo #098

Submitted by DEmery on 10/24/2011

Where Purchased: Bob Flesher

Year Purchased: 1999
Price Paid: $3,450 ($US)

Sound

The banjo came with a fybeskyn head and it underpowered the banjo. I went for an extended period trying to find the tone I felt was within the potential of this banjo. The final set up was a custom matching no-knot designed tail piece, a very sturdy goat skin head, and Sosebee bridge. It now is a very powerful banjo with loads of tone and volume. I couldn't be happier with the final result.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Set up was fine as was action. See under sound above that with some different choices in head, tail piece, etc., the banjo is simply outstanding. Set up was easy but the mix took some experimentation.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

Simply a beautiful banjo. Jubilo #098 is in fact the first issued Jubilo which is Bob's top presentation banjo. Last time I spoke with Bob he had built 5 but had orders for a couple more. Photos of his second issued Jubilo are posted on his website.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

All hardware, finish, construction are of the highest order.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

The banjo was initially projected as a 7-8 month project. It took about 3 years. Bob is a one man show and at that time business was good so it took longer than expected. He has been always helpful and I am proud to have this banjo from Bob and a spare.

Customer Service: 10

Components

There are no cheap parts and Bob goes out of his way to get outstanding plate work after his engraving work.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

This banjo is truly as much an art piece as a musical instrument. Bob has built for decades and there are few that produce highly finished banjos at this level. Even fewer builders can do it all from building, to detailed engraving, carving. Banjos are very personal but if someone is looking for a banjo built on the order of banjos from the 1800's this is an excellent banjo and builder.

Overall Rating: 10

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