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.
Where Purchased: JDMC
I have not been one to really play around with the set up or components of my banjos. I recently had a banjo made and the bridge was just a bit higher than I am accustomed to. Rather than sand the feet down on the existing bridge, I began looking to buy a shorter bridge. I had no idea there were SO many options out there. Choosing one can be a bit overwhelming. I saw Bart Veerman's bridges on JDMC website, then checked the reviews here on the BHO. Because of its unique look, the Dark Star jumped out at me and I took a chance on it. When I first opened the package, I was immediately impressed by the beauty of the wood and the fine craftsmanship and detail work on such a small object. Once installed and tuned, my banjo had a significant increase in volume, note separation, and brightness. Sheer power would be the best description. I had considered my new banjo to be a very responsive instrument, but the Dark Star put this banjo (12" Tubaphone) in an entirely different league. I am extremely pleased with the look and sound the Dark Star has brought to my banjo. I did not expect a $30 item to make such a big difference in a finely-crafted, custom-made instrument. Oh and mission accomplished on finding a comfortable height...the 5/8's bridge height is perfect as it lowered the string height just enough without compromising tone and volume. I am going to have to try another one of Bart's bridges on one of my other banjos now.
Overall Rating: 10
Where Purchased: Direct from Dogwood
Being a brand new banjo, all the parts are still coming together to figure out that they are a banjo...I play clawhammer and love the old-timey sound. I chose a tu-ba phone tonering for this banjo. It is a definite upgrade to the rolled brass tone hoop in my other openback, and I really like the sound of the old banjo. I had my reservations about this as MIke had not used a tu-ba phone in one of his banjos before. This one has more volume. The tone is less metalic, more respsonsive and produces a wide variety of tones based on the attack. The tone can be crisp and bright or nice and fat. It sounds great up the neck. Overall I really like the fullness of the sound produced by my Dogwood and it will only get better.
Sound Rating: 9
The action was just a bit higher than I am used to, but that is easy to adjust. I may play with the head tension to really get to know the range of this banjo's capabilities. As indicated above there is really no need to change the setup as far as improving the sound is concerned...
Setup Rating: 9
Every banjo Mike Chew makes is unique. Pictures just don't do them justice. I am amazed at the beauty of the woods and finish. The inlays are custom and they look great. It really is a piece of art. The look of this banjo far exceeds my expectations. This banjo has the curliest maple neck I have ever seen. It is set off by the hand rubbed oil finish. The pot, fretboard, and peg head overlay are all wenge. The contrast is stunning. The brass harware sets it all of nicely.
Appearance Rating: 10
All of the parts are top quality. It is a fine hand made instrument. Many generations will enjoy this banjo.
Reliability Rating: 10
Mike and I became fast friends. I don't think the banjo will need any warranty work, but I am confident that he would do what is necessary to make things right if it ever did.
Customer Service: 9
The woods Mike uses are amazing. The curly maple is unreal. I have never seen maple with that much figure. I also selected a Buckeye tail piece...it seems to be great quality as well. The Gotohs have a great feel to them.
Components Rating: 10
Overall the experience of building a custom banjo was well beyond my expectations. I got a great banjo and made a friend in the process. Each Dogwood is unique. Mike has the unique ability to really catch your vision and utilize his artistry to produce a work of art.
Overall Rating: 10