Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

544
Banjo Lovers Online


Banjo Reviews

Review Categories

Most Recent

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.

Banjo mutes: Mike's Banjo Mute

Submitted by trapdoor2 on 8/24/2015

Where Purchased: mikesbanjomute.com

Overall Comments

I've been using two of Mike's Mutes since he introduced them a couple of years ago. I have the 5-string standard version and the 4-string version.

I've owned a lot of different banjo mutes in the past 35 yrs. Mike's are simply the best I've ever had. They are exceptionally easy to use, stay in place, don't damage the bridge and are on and off in a second or two.

Construction: Mike has done a great job of blunting all edges...no sharps anywhere. These are solid and well made, no cheap stamped parts here. I expect someone will be using these things on my banjos well into the next century.

Sound: These are extremely effective mutes. Ask my wife...no complaints! As with any mass-mute, the banjo sounds more guitar-like and notes sustain quite a bit longer.

In use: I really like the low profile of these mutes, they do stick up a bit (about 7/16") but that is quite a bit lower than the old violin-types (esp the old metal ones). There's nothing to drop down on the head, so they don't rattle. Also, they tend to lean back towards the tailpiece, so the brass bar doesn't buzz on the strings. They're low enough that even digging down in Scruggs mode near the bridge, my picking hand never touches the mute.

Overall: deep shot to center...outta the park! The best mute ever.

Overall Rating: 10

Hartel: Ashborn

Submitted by trapdoor2 on 10/19/2012

Where Purchased: Direct from Jim Hartel

Year Purchased: 2007
Price Paid: 2800 ($US)

Sound

I asked Jim to reproduce an original 1852 Ashborn currently owned by Bob Winans. Bob had let me play his original and I fell in love with the sound. Jim not only hit the physical attributes of that banjo square on but he got the sound perfect...as good as it gets!

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Setup was just right, exactly like the original. The goatskin head was very rubbery and I eventually removed it and replaced it with a nice calfskin (supplied by Mr. Hartel).

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

Looks like the twin of the 1852 original. Jim was very careful to reproduce every aspect of the original.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Hardware is top drawer. No reason it shouldn't be dead-reliable for a century or two.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I stripped a bracket hook in 2012 while replacing the head. Jim replaced it w/o charge. The head was a free replacement from Jim as well. Hard to beat that!

Customer Service: 10

Components

Nothing substandard here. The level of craftsmanship is amazing.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

Simply the best stroke-style banjo I could conceive of owning. It does everything I ask of it and makes me look and sound like a star every time I play it. I own a lot of banjos and am always on the lookout for "upgrades"...I don't look at early banjos anymore, this is it!

Overall Rating: 10

Nechville: Phantom "Flux Capacitor"

Submitted by trapdoor2 on 2/28/2009

Where Purchased: Nechville Products

Year Purchased: 2009
Price Paid: 3,233 ($US)

Sound

Huge sound. On the treble side of "balanced" but the bass side is quite clear. Very loud and penetrating with quite a bit of ringing sustain. It is new, so the sound hasn't settled in yet and I haven't done any adjustments. Excellent, though, right out of the box.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

While it was perfectly set up out of the box, the ease that one may change setup on a Nechville means it will be a while before I am finished finding a "favorite" set-up. Frankly, I could be quite happy without ever messing with it.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

Simply beautiful. Tom and I worked together to pick out the woods used and I supplied the fingerboard. It looks just like the picture I had in my head...perhaps better. The whole banjo is "custom", but there are no inlays beyond "Nechville" in the headstock. I did not want a standard "truss rod cover" or exposed screws so Tom made a flush magnetic cover venerred to match the headstock...perfect!

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

I'm sure this is a multiple lifetime banjo. I just hope somebody in the next century enjoys it as much as I'm going to. There is no reason to not depend on it.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

Tom, Al and company are a first rate group of people. They work with you to produce a product as close to your wants/needs as humanly possible. They have been in constant contact, both via email and over the phone. This has been a very good experience.

Customer Service: 10

Components

The "Nechville" components on this banjo are the neck, resonator, "Flux Capacitor", tailpiece, fit & finish (and the talent to bring it all together). I supplied the pot assembly (Sullivan Factory Floor rim, Kulesh "Big Ten" tone ring, First Quality: tube, plate, tension hoop and hardware) and wood for the fretboard. Everything is of the highest quality. I am really liking the wide frets (similar to an electric guitar style fret), they are very comfortable. Tom's "comfort bevel" armrest is a great addition, it looks great and feels great. Tom's tailpiece design is excellent as well.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

It is a custom; nobody but Nechville could have done it. The price exceeded the high side of my guesstimate...but not by much. After receiving the banjo, I would say the price was very fair.

I have a single picky thing to note: I ordered "5th string railroad spikes" at the 7th and 9th frets...and received spikes at 7,8,9 and 10. It isn't a problem...but it isn't what I ordered either. 'nuff said.

So far, it plays like many "high end" banjos I've tried over the years. I think it is actually louder than my Stelling Archtop...if that is possible. It has a better bottom end than the Stelling and seems to be cleaner up high. Playability is excellent, which I credit to the conic radius on the fretboard...and of course, all that great workmanship. Neck is fast, not quite as thin as the Stelling's...but very comfortable.

Overall Rating: 9

Stelling: Sunflower

Submitted by trapdoor2 on 2/27/2002

Where Purchased: Fret Shop, Huntsville, AL

Year Purchased: 1986
Price Paid: 1800 ($US)

Sound

Very bright sound. It is an archtop so the highs are really amazing. Lacks a little bottom end but it punches so hard up the neck that I just don't notice. Has std. overtone problems which are difficult to nail down. This is a bluegrass banjo (duh!) but I've found that the archtop really gives it excellent dynamic range, provided you can pick lightly enough. Classical stuff sounds excellent but it is difficult not to blow the db meter...

Sound Rating: 8

Setup

Initial setup was just right, Geoff hit my requirements spot on. I prefer medium gauge strings but it came with

Setup Rating: 8

Appearance

Although it is a great looking banjo (no extras), the plating on the tone ring was well, miserable. I ordered it with a clear head and couldn't believe the big black stain on the tonering glaring through! Geoff offered to fix it but I just mounted a std. white head and haven't looked back. Otherwise, the fit and finish is everything I dreamed of.

Appearance Rating: 7

Reliability

The nickle plating took one look at my leather strap and oxidized overnight. Not the banjo's fault, mine for being stupid. Only other wear is on the armrest, which is to be expected. Totally dependable...but I don't do gigs.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

2yr waranty, as I recall. Geoff was/is very friendly and willing to do what it takes to make the 'jo right.

Customer Service: 9

Components

I replaced the bridge several times, but that is one of those

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

You ain't getting one of these puppies for that price anymore! If it were stolen, I'd probably replace it with a Deering Hartford but that's probably because my tastes have changed over the years rather than because I'm dissatisfied with the Stelling. Best feature is the neck. I've never played a faster or more comfortable one. I've played a bunch of other banjos and nothing compares for that archtop sound and solid Stelling playability.

Overall Rating: 8

Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories

0.09375