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!
7116 reviews in the archive.
Where Purchased: Smoky Mountain Guitars
Year Purchased: 2008
Price Paid: 3800 ($US)
Mine is the distressed Ron Stewart maple like Ron's 33 TB-1 conversion. I have owned many banjos (my wife will verify and then start cussing) and this banjo is the best of any I have played. I currently own a maple Osborne Chief, a 33 TB-3 conversion (a 40 hole archtop) and a few others. After playing it for a while I think it is the best sounding banjo I have ever owned. I live in Denver and a number of my friends here have pre war Gibson flatheads. I would truly put this banjo up against any of them. It is currently set up for "full" balanced sound and, my friends, it is loud if you need it to be. I have played it with both of the bands I am in and it sounds great miked through my AT-4050 condenser mike and through a dynamic mike usually an SM-57. I am not sure exactly what pre war sound is but this banjo sure sounds fine. One of the bands is currently in the studio doing some recording and this banjo sounds awesome recorded.
Sound Rating: 10
Great set up when I got it. I play Gibson Earl Scruggs mediums (0.10, 0.22, 0.14, 0.12, 0.10). The lighter strings on it simply are too light for me and feel like I am playing rubber bands. I think the change also upped the volume some, not that it needed it. Warren and Ron got this banjo right so I am not sure I would recommend changing much of anything else.
Setup Rating: 10
When I opted for the "distressed" finish, I wasn't sure how it would look but it looks great. Straight grain maple speed neck, maple resonator, unplated Venom 33 ring. Fit and finish were absolutely tops. The finish is a beautiful, old appearing deep mahogany red. The nickel is "scuffed" a little in the places you would expect an older banjo to be (armrest) and the overall nickel finish doesn't have that shiny, bright look that some new banjos have.
Appearance Rating: 10
Hardware is first rate. Keith tuners are really fine, smooth operating (non D-tuners). My first gig, I took a back up banjo but have played it w/o back up every gig since. The parts are all high quality.
Reliability Rating: 10
The first week I had the banjo the 5th string kept going out of tune. Well, the 5th string tuner was spinning in the neck. I called Warren, shipped it to him and had it back in a week. Better than new-he thought the original head had split so he replaced it and did another set up on it. He sent me one of his bands CD and was pleasant as can be. (I like his band's CD)! Very fast and efficient turnaround.
Customer Service: 10
I think the whole of this banjo is greater that the sum of the parts. The combination of the parts and Warren and Ron's preference add up to the best sounding new banjo I have ever played. Banjo building is part science, part instinct and feel and part voodoo I think. Warren likes light flanges as he has stated that on these very pages. Combined with the rim, ring and the rest, the tone is terrific. I have built several banjos myself and some sounded okay, some horrible and none sounded anywhere near this one.
Components Rating: 10
This banjo cost less than my Chief (also a great sounding banjo) but this Yates does it for me now. I love listening to it while I am playing with my bandmates, it just sounds so good. I can't guarantee I won't buy another banjo someday but I promise one thing about that, it will most likely be a Yates Ron Stewart mahogany model. I think I'll start saving my nickels and dimes right now.
Overall Rating: 10
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