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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!

7107 reviews in the archive.

Osborne Chief: Chief

Submitted by KCJohnny on 3/18/2005

Where Purchased: From Sonny Osborne

Year Purchased: 2005
Price Paid: 3900 ($US)

Sound

This banjo sounds really nice. It has a sweet tone and plenty of punch. The sustain is excellent, and the tone up the neck is excellent. I would describe the sound as rich and full with a helping of brightness, not too much so. The best way I can describe the tone is sweet, but with plenty of fourth string growl.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

This banjo came set up just as I asked. The action was at about 3/16 at the 22nd. The only thing I will consider in the future is a bridge and/or tailpiece replacement. This banjo has all top quality parts, Cox rim and resonator, Neat neck, Blaylock tone ring. The only parts that I would even consider replacing in the future are the presto tailpiece and what seems to be a no frills Frank Neat bridge. I have a fults C-20 tailpiece and 2 bridges a Huber and a Vintage Elite Z. I am waiting until I really "need" to tinker. This banjo sounds excellent without any changes at this point.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

The appearance is outstanding. The craftsmanship is top notch. The more time I spend just looking this banjo over, the more I appreciate Frank Neat's work. To some, and to me, the speed neck with the finish removed takes some getting used to, but the flame maple is beautiful. After playing the banjo, the speed neck becomes more beautiful every day. The gold plating looks very good, and the hearts and flowers inlay is just flawless. Frank Neat does really fine work. The resonator is absolutely beautiful.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

This banjo is made of top quality parts and it shows. The fit and finish is flawless, and this is a solid players banjo. It is still early, but I am pretty convinced that this IS my banjo and will be for good. I would depend on this banjo without so much as a little concern. I don't know how one could find a better built banjo. Sure there are some that are built with the same quality, but I would be hard pressed to name one that is better built.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I dealt directly with Sonny Osborne via phone and email. Sonny is a very pleasant person who proved to me with actions that he was truly concerned with making sure that buying and playing this banjo was a good experience. As sonny said himself, "if one of my children act up, send it back and I will make it right". I think that says it all.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Well, this is tough, Sonny wanted to create a banjo as much like his old Granada as possible. Which means the presto tailpiece. The jury is still out with me, but I would go with an adjustable tailpiece, and a high end bridge. No reason as far as sound, the banjos sounds excellent right out of the case after receiving it. Just personal preferrence. Other than that which really is insignificant in the overall scheme of things, this banjo is built with only the best that Sonny can find and purchase himself. Cox rim and resonator, Blaylock gold plating over copper flashed tonering, Frank Neat neck. The banjo is sent in a Calton case, and a "Chief" Elliot capo and Dogwood Designs strap is inculed (with Sonny Osborne signature and "Chief" logo tooled into the leather. Excellent components, excellent value.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

Let me begin by saying that a banjo is a very much a personal preferrence thing. This banjo I believe is THE banjo for me. My comments may reflect the extreme fondness I have for this banjo. Please accept my comments offered freely, and understand that I am just geeked out about this banjo and my comments may relect this.

I would recommend this banjo to anyone. This is a players banjo, and the value is unequaled. This quality banjo, with a Calton case, elliot capo and dogwood strap. All for the price paid is an outstanding value. Dealing directly with Sonny is a memory I will always carry with me. The delivery time was about two weeks from order to receipt. Tough to get a Frank Neat built custom any quicker than this. This custom is built based upon parts purchased and selected by Sonny himself to match the performance of his Granada. Many players upgrade even high end banjos with the parts used to build this banjo. This banjo compares to the Huber Lexington in tone. A good friend of mine plays a Lexington, and we played these banjos side by side. If Chief 101 was stolen, after the posse and the hanging, if it was damaged, I would order another Chief. If I do buy another banjo in the future, it will be a Mahogany Chief, just to have a matching Mahogany 'jo.

Overall Rating: 10

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