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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!

7079 reviews in the archive.

Tuners: Peterson StroboClip - SC-1 Clip-On Strobe Tuner

Submitted by Chris Cooper on 11/7/2014

Where Purchased: Andersons UK

Overall Comments

The StroboClip tuner from Peterson is incredibly accurate, functional and attractive. It does has its oversights and frustrating points though.

The Banjo specific Sweetened tuning is fantastic, my banjo's have never sounded so in tune, Very genuinely the sweetened tuning makes an unbelievable difference, the instrument sounds NOTICEABLY better when tuned with the StroboClip with sweetened tuning activated.

However there is a down side to this from a banjo pickers point of view. The sweetened tuning seems to be centred around standard G tuning and the tuner becomes...................Difficult / tempremental when you try to tune into D or C with the banjo specific Sweetener turned on. This problem is easily rectified by switching the tuner to Standard chromatic mode, which is fine but does take some fiddling as you need to press a mode button a few times to select the sweetener mode and then scroll through 20 or more sweetened tunings for various different instruments before you get to the chromatic mode.

It is far too time consuming and tricky to consider toggling the sweetened tuning mode on and off during a live performance situation. It is also a crying shame to loose the fantastic effect which the sweetened tuning makes to your sound - the noticeably better sound is nullified completely in this situation............Frustrating from a live playing perspective. Studio..........Ok, I can live with it.

Even in Chromatic mode though the tuner is supremely accurate, easy to use and the realtime effect that playing a note has on the tuners read out is truly staggering.

Structurally; the casing of the tuner itself is made from metal (Aluminium I think) and is solid, the buttons of the tuner are soft rubber and feel like they will last. The clip of the tuner and its articulated joints, are made of plastic and feel a touch cheap, incidentally the articulated joints are not as good (useful) as the SNARK's. The Jaws of the clip are soft lined (better than the ones found on the Snark) and will not damage your instrument.

The Stroboclip comes supplied in a nice tin box with soft, shaped interior to accept the Stroboclip tuner and to keep one spare battery inside, this case is a really nice touch and considering the price of this tuner (I paid £60 where a Snark is £20) a welcome addition. Sadly this is one area where I have a real gripe with the designers of the Tuner. This nice little box will not fit into the pick boxes of any of my instrument cases!!!!!!!! I have Calton, TKS and Prucha banjo cases Hiscox electric and Martin acoustic guitar cases along with several other miscellaneous instrument cases. It fits in none of them. To me this is a real frustration and a point where I feel that Peterson have really let themselves down, surely more thought should have been applied. Clip on tuners are made for acoustic musicians.

Come on Peterson.......Where do acoustic musicians keep their tuners?????!!!!!

 

 

 

 

AMENDMENT ----- I posted this review the same week I recieved the tuner, The clip on this tuner broke off completely yesterday. VERY poor.

Overall Rating: 2

Picks: sammy shelor picks

Submitted by Chris Cooper on 11/5/2013

Where Purchased: Internet store.

Overall Comments

The tone is perfect, the Sammy Shelor picks are quite simply the best finger picks I have ever seen, heard or used. Believe every word of the hype. They are the most comfortable picks out there, they're longer so they sit right back on your finger completely eliminating any soreness around the quick of your nail. I can and frequently do pick with these all day long with no discomfort whatsoever. The longevity of the picks is staggering, which I guess is a result of the stainless steel that they're made from. I've been picking with one set of Shelors for almost 2 and a half years and there's no evidence of wear on them at all. If I lost or damaged my Shelor's I would replace them immediately without any question. In the case of these picks do not be put off by the hype and the "in your face" endorsement. They're great and have to be used to be believed.

Overall Rating: 10

Picks: blue chip jd thumb pick

Submitted by Chris Cooper on 7/17/2013

Where Purchased: Direct from Bluechip.

Overall Comments

The hard compound of th BlueChip material gives a really good HARD sound.

The Pick wears extremely well and will clearly last many times longer than any plasic pick.

The metal band which secures the pick to your thumb does occasionally catch on the 5th string - Bad news!

The metal band is also nowhere near as comfortable as a plastic and causes soreness on the quick of my thumbnail

The thickness and hardness of the BlueChip material quickly overpowers lighter strings (9's)

The price is ridiculously high and IMO the product is not good value for money.

It's not bad, but it's not exceptional, as all the hype, endorsements and the price tag would have you believe. All of it's plus points have down sides which outweigh them. You could easily get 2 - 5 years supply of plastic nationls for the price of one of these and in my experience, to do that would be preferable.

Overall Rating: 5

Eagle Music Store UK

Submitted by Chris Cooper on 7/21/2012

Overall Comments

Eagle Music is, in my opinion THE best acoustic music store in the UK.

The largest Deering Banjo Co. dealer in the world. The first UK retailer to be selected by prolific luthier Patrick James Eggle. The only UK dealer to supply the awesome Czech made Prucha Bluegrass instruments. Top Tanglewood retailer. Premier distributor for "Perfect Touch" finger and thumb picks. The list is endless.

Eagle offer a FREE Premier set-up by one of their on-site experts on all instruments.

All staff at Eagle Music are passionate about music and are committed to supplying the very best service to every customer, whether they are buying a plectrum or several thousand pounds worth of professional quality instrument. All staff are more than capable to give personalised and high quality advice. A warm welcome awaits everyone who walks through the door.

Eagle music also supply a fantastic, safe and fast mail order service.

I certainly won't be using any other store from now on. Eagle Music have really pushed the boundaries as far as top quality Music Retail goes and still maintain rock bottom prices and the the absolute pinnacle of service.

Superb!

Overall Rating: 10

Huber: Lancaster

Submitted by Chris Cooper on 9/11/2009

Where Purchased: Frets Old & New. (UK)

Year Purchased: 2009
Price Paid: 2500 (£'s sterling) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

The Huber Lancaster, In my opinion one of if not the best new mastertone style banjo available. I play hard driving Scruggs style bluegrass banjo and the Huber suits this perfectly. The banjo pops and cracks just the way I expect it to. The authentic full, rich tone cuts through the mix in a way I could only dream of before I had the Lancaster. The difference in tone between the x and y positions on the head is excellent.

In summary I think authentic is the only word that decribes the sound of the Huber. In fact I think authentic is the word to describe this banjo full stop.

I have included a link to a sample of the sound of my Banjo. http://www.banjohangout.org/myhangout/media-player/audio_player2.asp?musicid=13738

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Setup was almost perfect, lovely action, intonation as close to perfect as you can get.

All i did was to adjust the head tension and tailpiece hight to my preference. Huber include a torque wrench (which makes getting perfectly even head tension all the way around the head easy.) as well as a 'T' wrench for adjusting the head tension. A letter from Steve Huber shows his recommended torque setting for each nut, on mine i believe this to be 6-7 kg's/cm, although i prefer to run my head a little tighter around 8 kg's/cm.

The head by the way is made by remo to Steve's specifications to closely resemble the ones that came on the old Gibsons.

Set-up was reassuringly good.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

The Huber is fantasticly finished; flawless from snooter to tooter.

Various people have commented on the Lancaster's comparitably plain appearance, there is no highly polished laquer on the resonator, gold plated hardware etc however I quite like the understated beauty.

The neck and resonator are made from top quality mahogany with a vintage finish, the hardware has a vintage nickle plate finish, I believe Steve Huber uses the same plating proccedure that Gibson did before the war once again more authenticity.

The resonator has two concentric rings inlayed into the outside of centre, and a vintage binding on the leading edges.

The neck has the same vintage binding as the resonator's leading edge and has the same nitro-cellulose laquer that the pre-war Gibsons had, yet more authenticity!

The nitro-cellulose laquer on the neck is the one thing about this banjo that I would say is a detriment to its playability, it quickly becomes sticky as you play and becomes a bit of a pain after a while. Knit picking with that one though, keep the polish handy and it's really no problem. A speed neck option is also available on a new Huber which completely eradicates this issue, it is one of the options that I would reccomend.

The wood rim is made from 3 ply hardrock maple, just like the pre-war Gibson. It is glued together with hide glue just like the old Gibsons too, I did say the word with this banjo was authentic!
The fingerboard is a lovely piece of rosewood with a VERY VERY attracive old looking pearl inlay pattern, It seems reminisant of the pattern that can be seen on Terry Baucom's old Sullivan signature Banjo but its different and very nice.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

The hardware is all of top quality, the nickle plating is deep and rich. I have started to ware the nickle plating off the front of the arm rest and the vintage binding on the edges of the neck is beggining to get a distictively used look to it (six months or so) However I do spend every spare second I have playing it! (certainly 3 hours+ a day) the 5th string nut is particularly nice too, a small detail but an important one.

The Huber is fantasticly made wonderfully screwed together and I know full and well I can rely on it totally for many years to come.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Costomer service is absolutely non-existant, Huber as a company really let themselves down with poor costomer service. I dare say that Huber have lost more than a couple of sales through not responding quickly enough to costomer enquiries.

The Banjo comes with a limited lifetime warranty.

I sent two emails to Huber expressing my interest in purchacing a new Huber Banjo. Six months later I recieved an email in response to my enquiry but by that time I had already had my new Huber for two months after purchacing it from a dealer here in the UK.

I understand that Steve is a busy man but six months? especially as it concerned my giving him money. LOL

Customer Service: 1

Components

The Huber Lancaster is equiped with a set of waverly V2 (I think they are called) tuners, they look great with their ivaroid buttons. I have played stringed instruments since the age of about 3-4 and these tuners are the best i've ever used. They even 'feel' good.

The bridge is a huber bridge and suits me absolutely perfectly i'm unsure of the dimensions but I would be happy to measure up if anyone would like to know.

The head as I mentioned earlier is made by Remo for Huber to Steves specs. All I can say about the head and the bridge is that if the head was to split or I found myself in need of a new bridge I would settle for nothing other than genuine Huber replacements.

All the parts are of top quality with no compromise to.........you guessed it authenticity!

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

For hard driving bluegrass with authentic attack and tone that matches the sounds you hear on your records, I've heard nothing short of good pre-war Gibsons, that come close to the Huber Lancaster.

Huber seriously need to work on their costomer service, it is a testiment to the quality of their banjo's that they have sold any at all!

The only thing I would have different about my Huber, looking back I would deffinately have the speed neck option. but a sticky neck is a small price to pay for a Banjo that sounds like this.

Overall Rating: 10

Cases (Hard, Flight): Calton Deluxe

Submitted by Chris Cooper on 9/11/2009

Where Purchased: Direct from Kieth Calton.

Overall Comments

In my opinion quite simply the best.

When I rang Kieth Calton to place my order I was reassured by the ammount of measurements he required, that I was making the right decision. The case is tailored to fit the Banjo absolutely perfectly.

The interior is massively padded and then treated to some nice plush fluff. A generous pick box sits in the centre.

The 5 catches close with a gratifying SNAP! The hinges are solid as a rock. the handle is trustworthy and solid. The outer construction is as hard as nails with no joins in it; other than the one that lets you put your banjo in! the closing edges have a rubber seal all the way around that makes the fit when you close the lid that little more solid. There are 13 little plastic bumpers screwed to the outside of the case in all the places where it is likely to get bumped most frequently; which is another reassuring feature. The case also comes with two 'D' links to attatch a shoulder strap to. They are reassuringly heavy!

Overall Rating: 10

Janet Davis: Back-Up Banjo.

Submitted by Chris Cooper on 2/26/2009

Where Purchased: First Quality Music.

Overall Comments

I bought this book with a veiw to learning to play Scruggs style Back-Up, I could already vamp and had good knowledge of chords. This Book and DVD combo completely confused me even as to what I was trying to achieve, additionally it frustrated me so much I actually gave up playing Banjo for about six months.

It is poorly presented, badly organised i.e the book is muddled with just collections of licks splattered all the way through it. The DVD has terrible picture quality and has an even more rushed feeling to it than the book.

I learned the sum total of nothing from this book and DVD. I found it completely impossible to learn from, and I have also seen a thread here on the hangout where someone else had asked "how do I learn from this?" The answer in my experience is, "you don't."

The whole product feels rushed, slapped together as quickly as possible, put on the market to make money, rather than put on the market to help aspiring musicians.

Overall Rating: 1

Acutab: Acutab In General.

Submitted by Chris Cooper on 2/11/2009

Where Purchased: Via Internet.

Overall Comments

The work that John Lawless, Bill Evans and all the other guy's at Acutab put into their instructional material is truly staggering; it becomes obvious when you use any of their products, that they really beleive in what they are doing.



I have many of Acutab's products, Power Pickin' 1-4, (which really are worth their weight in gold, im sure anyone who has used them will agree that they are worth ten times the price tag), numerous artist DVD's (Jim Mills, Sammy Shelor, Ron Stewart, Ron Block) and a couple of the fully authorised wonderfully accurate tab books (Terry Baucom, Steve Dilling)

Everything is presented with a quality I've never seen before in similar products; a completely different attitude, it's like they have a self assumed (and very welcome) commitment to students of music.
A commitment to bringing the very best in instructional material to any aspiring bluegrass musician.

I've been using Acutab for about 3-4 months now and this commitment from the guy's at acutab is really inspiring it encourages a player to play more and more with the proggressive, structured lesson. Unlike most other DVD's whereby you would watch and take away with you the parts which seem of value (probably leaving a good 10-30% of the instruction on the disc)

With the help of Acutab I have with all sincerity become at least 10 times the Banjo player I was, I just wish i'd Known about them from day one!!!

www.acutab.com

Overall Rating: 10

JohnBoy and Billy: Driving With The Duke V1

Submitted by Chris Cooper on 11/28/2008

Where Purchased: First Quality Music

Overall Comments

When you speak of the hard driving sound of bluegrass banjo, Terry Baucom's name will soon be mentioned. This DVD gives a wonderfull insight into how to better get that awe inspiring sound that Bauc is famous for. Several tunes/songs are broken down into easily digestable sections, slowed down, broken down again, examining in detail almost every note. This DVD makes it easy to spot common things that terry does to make his sound so distinctive and then to apply them to your own playing. This is one of the best learning resourses I have found so far. Brilliant!!!!!!!!!

Overall Rating: 8

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