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Where Purchased: Yates Banjos
These have been a fixture in the 5-string banjo (and Telecaster guitar) world since the late 1960's. They are without compare as an example of modern American industrial art. They are marketed only by www.beaconbanjo.com, with personal service from Bill Keith.
I ordered four of these on my new Yates banjo. I kind of decided to get them at the last minute, just before the instrument was about to be shipped. Warren Yates called up Bill Keith, found the rather more elusive 1/4 set, and got them sent in time; something of a contrast with the usual multi-national corporate service.
To me these seem unchanged since the appeared on the scene in 1966 or so. They have always been stainless. I think they were originally $75 per set; now they're $210. Back then that was expensive, but now they're a steal. They are sold only in pairs, which is odd. Because they are so timeless, they work well on vintage instruments as replacements or on new instruments that are constructed to look vintage.
The D-tuning function requires the high note be tuned and locked followed by the lower note. After that there is no regular tuning allowed without unlocking the set screws. That's a bit of a pain compared to what I'm used to, the old-style Scruggs tuners that required two more holes be drilled in the peg head, (way more of a pain).
The D-tuning is kind of a one-trick-pony in my estimation. I got four of them for another reason. If you spend some time with the electronic tuner and get the tuning right you can tighten both set screws and the tuners lock! On my Yates banjo this really works - it stays in tune despite normal handling, pretty much all day. That's a nice feature for performances.
Another feature that works pretty well (on my banjo) is to set up alternate tuning stops. My favorite is to set the 4th string between C and D and the 2nd string between B and C. The other two are locked. With this setup I can get many of the tunings I like instantly. My Yates stays in tune adequately with this arrangement - it's really bliss. I haven't tried D-tuning between G and D-modal. In that case you might have to leave the first string unlocked for a little touch-up tuning.
The disadvantage is that the initial tuning takes more time. The actual process of tuning is flawless with no observable hysteresis. Still, I believe you should tune from below to set the upper stop and, from above to set the lower. I'm used to Pat. Pend. Grover Rotomatics, and these are as smooth although geared higher.
The overall rating would be a 10 if they tuned themselves, you could buy a 2/4 set or a single tuner, and they were tri-state.
Overall Rating: 9
'Banjo Plek' 4 hrs