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!
6943 reviews in the archive.
Where Purchased: www.mikesbanjomute.com
Great product and communication, quick shipping. Really nicely made. Best mute I have tried in my 40+ years of playing!
Overall Rating: 10
Where Purchased: Poky's Music
Year Purchased: 2005
Price Paid: 2200 ($US) (bought USED)
Great sound! Very loud! Very nice pop up the neck. Kulesh tone ring sounds fine.
Sound Rating: 9
Bought used. Changed head to Remo high crown top-frosted, bridge to Snuffy Smith I, 11/16". Set Presto all the way down touching the tension hoop and the head fairly tight. Plays and sounds fine. Came with spikes at 7,8,9,10 & 12.
Setup Rating: 7
Very nice mahogany and finish. My favorite inlay combination, leaves and bows peghead with flying eagle fingerboard. The rosewood fingerboard has some figure to it. Beautifully made Greg Rich-era instrument.
Appearance Rating: 9
Still seems to be in good shape after 15 years. Some minor dings and wear to the plating. The fifth string tuner is a little worn.
Reliability Rating: 9
Stover Mayhew at Poky's Music was a pleasure to deal with. I got a great sounding and playing banjo at a fair price. Gibson's guarantee was only for five years at the time this was made, now long expired.
Customer Service: 9
Very nice components, nice wood. Tone ring matched to rim.
Components Rating: 9
I played one of these at McCabe's back when they were new and have always wished I bought it. Anyone looking for a quality banjo should consider a Gibson from this era. I feel like I got a great instrument at an affordable price, and one that will likely hold its value. I'm really happy with it.
Overall Rating: 9
Where Purchased: EF Productions
Year Purchased: 2005
Price Paid: 1085 ($US)
Great sound! The sound is the best feature of this banjo. Right out of the box it sounded good, deep, throaty, with crack and pop. And loud, louder than my TB-2 conversion with Huber ring. And that was before any setup. I then stripped it down, took the adjustment screw out of the “presto” and put on light strings, my preference. I left on the 5/8” bridge it came with and tightened the head to where I like it and added fifth string spikes. I then took it to a friend of mine, a professional musician and producer who plays all stringed instruments, including banjo. I told him I had a new banjo and that I wanted his opinion, but that I didn’t want him to see it so it wouldn’t color his expectations. I had him turn his back and picked it a little. He said “Well, that’s your old banjo, isn’t it?” After we both played it a while we agreed it a very good sounding banjo and a stageworthy instrument. Later, I put on a Snuffy Smith 11/16” bridge. It got even better. It rocks! It sounds good capoed, too. Here's a sound clip: http://www.judithgeiger.com/banjo/mp3/GF100FE.mp3
Sound Rating: 9
It was very nearly in tune right out of the box. The tailpiece was adjusted way down, but other than that it was playable as is. The frets are well finished, no sharp ends, no buzzes. The head tension was good. It sounded good with the medium strings it came with. The bridge was set correctly and the intonation, relief and action were good. The first string stuck in the nut slot and the nut had glue? on it. Both the nut and the fifth string nut had sharp edges. I cleaned these up and filed them smooth.
Setup Rating: 8
Nice finish on the wood with good curb appeal. The stain is a little lighter than I prefer, but nicely done. The neck is one piece, except for a 1/4” wide strip visible on the back of only one side of the peghead! On the resonator there is a noticible flaw in the finish where there is a dent in the purfling rings. The inlays in the ebony fingerboard and peghead overlay were neat and tight. Small asymmetries in the inlays make me think they are hand cut. I had expected laser-cut. It has the bell-shaped truss rod cover, which I like a lot more than the one on the GF-85s. The pearlescent tuner buttons have visible seams and look kind of cheap. Even my wife remarked on them. The resonator had an area of stain inside. There are slight imperfections in the flange plating. It came with a very nice looking case.
Appearance Rating: 8
It looks durable. Ask me in a year.
Reliability Rating: not rated
I haven’t tried to use it yet. I understand that warranty issues are handled through the seller, who was professional in my dealings with him, except for his "no return" policy. The banjo didn’t come with any warranty papers, so I’m not sure what is covered or excluded. Inside the banjo the label says “Gold Star banjos are guaranteed to the original purchaser without time limit under the terms of our warranty.” UPDATE 9/11/05: I emailed EF Productions regarding a cracked tuner button 30 days ago and have gotten no response.
Customer Service: 1
First, the 9.5 lb. case is very nice. It was marked with a tag, Golden Gate CD-1530. It is not to be confused with the CP-1530 Deluxe ABS molded case or the CV-1530 Vintage plywood one. I’m not sure what it is made of. It is covered with a black pebbled leatherette covering and nicely finished. The top and sides flex somewhat, yet were strong enough that I could stand on the top and sit on the side without any damage. The top is molded into an arch. It has five brass-colored latches, one locking, and comes with two keys. It has feet on the bottom, side and the butt. The inside is lined with dark green plush velvety material and nice padding that fits the banjo very well. The top has an extra ring of padding above the tension hoop to hold the banjo securely without putting pressure on the bridge. A very nice feature is the two ramps of plush-covered foam held in place by Velcro to support the peghead. They are somewhat adjustable by repositioning them forward or back. There is a very roomy storage pocket. Inside were the lug nut wrench and an allen wrench for the truss rod. It has a comfortable handle that balances very well from front to back, but the loaded case hangs slightly sideways toward your leg at the bottom.
The resonator is well constructed, smoothly finished and lays flat. The sides are 1/8" deeper than on my TB-2. It makes a nice pop when tapped.
The bottom edges of the rim are not rounded off and there is one place that you can feel the joint between the laminations. The rim and tone ring are both marked “28.” The 20-hole ring easily slips on and off and is well fit to the rim. The ring has some casting flaws up in the inside groove. The outside of the sloping face is machined somewhat unevenly and shows plating imperfections. It rang brightly when struck, as did the tension hoop. The large coordinator rod nut was frozen on the rod. When I got them apart I oiled the threads and they went together smoothly. It came with a Remo head. The tailpiece and armrest are lighter and thinner than the originals. Overall the banjo weighs 11.5 lbs., 1/2 lb. more than my TB-2 conversion.
The neck is well constructed, with medium frets with the ends finished over the binding. The neck is thicker and wider than I am used to, but playable, even with my small hands. The tuners seem adequate. The neck starts to thicken slightly at the first fret below the volute. Somehow, Inspector #42 did not notice that it has an extra side dot at the 21st fret! Of course, this makes mine a one-of-a-kind custom job and more valuable.
Components Rating: 7
All in all this is a very good sounding, good playing banjo with a very nice case. I bought it as a backup, but think it would be a suitable instrument for any intermediate or even a professional player. I’m not ready to retire my TB-2, but if this one had a little slimmer neck, it would be a keeper. And you would have to spend a LOT more to get one that sounded any better.
Overall Rating: 8
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