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!
6991 reviews in the archive.
Where Purchased: Classifieds - Banjo Hangout
Year Purchased: 2017
Price Paid: $3,000 ($US) (bought USED)
I play bluegrass...traditional Scruggs style. It suits my style
First of all, I will rate all aspects of this banjo in comparison to other high end banjos I have played. So, when I give a rating of 5, that doesn't mean it's a mediocre banjo. It means on average, the banjo compares with other banjos in a relatively similar price range. Comparing a $4,000 or $5,000 banjo, for instance, with a $800 banjo is like comparing apples to oranges in most cases. I'm 67 years old and have played since I was 10. Over the years I've played and heard a ton of banjos, both inexpensive makes and models and very expensive makes and models. When I go to a music store, I play everything they have and I've played other people's banjos at festivals and have owned several banjos over the years...
I bought this banjo last summer (about 6 months ago). It appears to have been hardly played. There isn't a scratch or ding on it. I wanted to play it for several months before doing a review so I would be able to give a better opinion of the sound and other aspects of the banjo. Obviously, everyone has different likes and dislikes on the sound they want out of a banjo and of course, setup makes a huge difference as everyone knows.
I've experimented quite a bit with this banjo. Sound is difficult to describe, but I like a very distinct separate of notes, a deep bass response, and good volume. I've tried different tensions on the head, a couple different bridges, etc. I've not tried different strings yet, but I plan to. So far I'm happy with the sound. It compares with other banjos I've played in this price range. I wouldn't say that it stands out above any other higher end banjos I've played, but it's a quality instrument with very good tone.
Sound Rating: 5
Here's where some people might take exception to my review. When I got the banjo the action was just a bit higher than I like. I went by the manual to try to lower the action and I had a heck of a time getting it even back to how it was when I got it. I spent a couple hours on it and became really frustrated and ended up calling Customer support at Nechville for some help. The person I talked to was very cordial and said something to the effect of "Yes, there is a bit of a learning curve to adjust the action on the neck", which really wasn't much help. He basically told me what the manual stated. I finally ordered a lower bridge, but still don't have the action quite how I like it. I looked up how to adjust the neck on Youtube. The video makes it look very simple to adjust the neck, but for me it's anything but.. Lots of trial and error and frustration. There has to be an easier way to adjust the neck on a banjo than what currently is out there (with all banjo makes!).
Adjusting the head is very simple. No doubt about that. I don't know about other people, but once I have a banjo setup the way I like it, I don't touch anything. I have an old Gibson Bowtie (the banjo I learned to play on when I was a kid) and I haven't changed anything on that banjo in well over 30 years except the strings and the bridge. So, unless someone likes to tinker, is changing heads a lot for some reason, etc., I really don't see a big advantage in the Nechville design. A traditional banjo does take some time to tear down and put back together if you change the head, but it's only a couple hour job for me and how often does a person change a head anyway? Having said that, I am considering trying the wooden tone ring just for fun and changing that out should be pretty simple with the Nechville desing.
On the plus side, I really like the wider frets, but I really don't see any advantage in a radiused neck. I played a couple other banjos with a radiused neck and didn't see any difference with them either, so it's obviously not that this banjo is a Nechville. For me, I see absolutely no difference in how it plays compared to a flat fret board, but that's me. The big disadvantage of a radiused fret board is that you need a radiused bridge and a radiused capo. I have a bag full of different bridges I've tried on banjos I've owned over the years and 4 or 5 capo, but I can't use them with a radiused neck.
The tuners are very nice... very smooth and the banjo stays in tune very well even when bending the strings..
I really like the ease of adjusting the tailpiece also...very simple with a small Allen wrench.
I also really like the wooden armrest...very comfortable. I also really like the neck profile.. It's very comfortable up and down the neck.
Setup Rating: 4
The wood on this banjo is absolutely beautiful and the workmanship is flawless. Very nice inlay design. I have mixed feelings on the material the pot is made of and the tailpiece (the black material...not sure exactly what the material is....I went through their website and couldn't find what the black material is). The nice aspect is that it doesn't tarnish and will never need to be polished, but it has kind of a space age look to it (to my eye). I haven't quite gotten used to that particular look. Overall this banjo is very pleasing to the eye.
Appearance Rating: 5
I really haven't had this banjo long enough to rate the reliability. It appears that it will stand the test of time. It's a quality instrument, no doubt about that. Yes, I'd have no problem using it for a gig without a backup and have done so.
Reliability Rating: 5
My only contact with Nechville was regarding setting the action. Nechville has a great website. There's a lot of information there, several videos demonstrating a variety of topics regarding their banjos, etc.
Customer Service: 6
I've mentioned these things previously
Components Rating: 5
This is a very nice banjo. Don't let my review of a few aspects I didn't care for discourage you from buying a Nechville. Is it better than say a Huber, Stelling, or any other higher end make similarly priced? No,I don't think so. Keep in mind that like a guitar,mandolin, fiddle, etc. a banjo gets better with age. Nechvilles haven't been around for 60 years. So, comparing a relatively new banjo to a vintage banjo isn't realistic. I like this banjo and overall I'm very pleased with it. I don't have it quite where I want it yet, but I'll continue to do a few tweaks and I'm sure I'll get it there. I play my banjos every day. They're all just a little different, but they are all fun. No two banjos are alike...
Overall Rating: 5
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