Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

755
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!

6950 reviews in the archive.

Truss Rod Cover: custominlay.com

Submitted by Ohio Senator on 3/24/2015

Where Purchased: www.custominlay.com

Overall Comments

Ordered a black/white bell shaped truss rod cover with a script engraving in it.

Needed it in about a month... took something like 6+ weeks to arrive, and showed up a few days after I let the country to play the gig I wanted the cover for in the first place.

Got back home and the truss rod cover is a pretty poor job of workmanship.  Firstly, the bell shape is rough and not at all even.  There are several areas where you can clearly tell the outside shape lines are wobbly and not nearly as sharp as your typical off the shelf no frills truss rod cover.  The black was melted into the white in places, too, creating smudged up areas around the edge. Holes for screws were not centered perfetly. Obviously the shape of the truss rod cover was made from scratch, but the attention to detail and quality control is lacking.

Then there is the engraving.  It seems that it was done took quickly or with a mechanical implement that got too hot because the script itself is not clearly visible to read as the black has melted some into the white underneath to leave a grey residue that can't just be cleaned out.  The result is too dark to be useful and I had to spend a half hour digging out the script to at least make it somewhat legible. 

I'm honestly shocked they sent this out to me at all like this, and won't ever order a thing from them again.  

My gut told me to just have some major maker like Deering do it for me, but I took a suggestion from a fellow BHO member... this time that was clearly not the way to go.  

 

Overall Rating: 2

Straps: Souldier custom straps

Submitted by Ohio Senator on 1/26/2015

Where Purchased: Online

Overall Comments

http://www.souldier.us/CustomBanjoStraps.aspx

My wife picked me up a strap from here for my last banjo a couple years ago.

Its comfortable, economical, and creative.  You have maybe a hundred different vintage fabric overlays to choose from and highly customizable from there.

Made with a base of seatbelt material, these are comfortable and reasonably priced (though price depends on what material you choose.  Range is something like $22-60). 

Highly recommended if you are not dead set on leather.  Aside from my Dogwood Designs straps, which rates a 10, this this the only other strap I'll go for and the only reason I give it a 9.

Overall Rating: 9

Stands: Cooper Stands

Submitted by Ohio Senator on 1/6/2015

Where Purchased: Uptoen Strings

Overall Comments

Been using this for a year or so and I think its great.

High quality construction and engineering, folds up very small, and sturdy.

I actually have the guitar version since they had not made a banjo version yet when I purchased it (they have one now).

I haven't had any of the issues the other reviewer had, and have used this out at numerous gigs and venues.  

It seems like it might be unstable, but its not at all, and I've never been happier with a stand that looks as good as my banjo, packs up small, and isn't as clumbsy or awkward as carrying around some of the different stands out there (and I've tried them all!).

I'd suggest bringing your banjo along if you are buying one in person so you can be sure it is what you want, though.

 

Overall Rating: 9

Deering: Vega Bluegrass Senator

Submitted by Ohio Senator on 6/6/2009

Where Purchased: Deering

Year Purchased: 2008
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Just as they say at Deering, this banjo has a sweet and melodic tone. It isn't as bassy as other tone rings, but you can hear the acoustic properties of the wood due to the lighter weight. At the same time, you can dig in and get a real bluegrass bite out of it, too. In that way, its under rated for its versatility (as all Little Wonder tone rings are...)
I've often received complients on the sound of this banjo. I play in mostly a two finger style (ala Dock Boggs) and play primarily hillbilly Americana with a Kavanjo pickup and Tonebone PZ Pre DI.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

Setup was great, and very easy to adjust as temp/humidity changes. Really great jumbo frets that make playing easy. Only downside is that they don't include a wrench for adjusting the head tension, which seems to me to be a ridiculous thing NOT to include with a banjo at any price level, which is why I give it a 9.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

I don't like fancy stuff all over my instruments, and would rather the tone/playing speak for itself. The Star inlays ARE a nice classy touch, though. The banjo itself is rock maple with ebony fingerboard. A small blemish from laquer peeling off occured early on in the life of this banjo, so I have adjusted my rating to reflect that. Truly not a big deal, though.

Appearance Rating: 8

Reliability

It seems pretty much bomb proof, and can be counted on to stay in tune for a long period of time. Great tuners and all hardware in general is fantastic (though maybe slightly less beefy than some I've seem from Stew Mac)
It stays in tune for a ridiculously long time.
Finish is satin, which I prefer, allowing the oils from your skin eventually wear into the banjo and make it smooth and fast on the neck.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

I purchased this direct from Deering (I work for a major music retailer) and Barry Hunn was pretty much awesome. He really helped me out, was super patient and friendly, not to mention he answered all my questions superbly. In the end I went with this model banjo based on my needs and Barry's opinions and was not disappointed. Lifetime warranty for original owner can't be beat, either. Plus you get a sweet Deering Gold Card as your registration.

Customer Service: 10

Components

This banjo is identical to the Vega Senator, but with a resonator.
This banjo used the TOP portion only of a White Laydie tone ring, a brass rod with a brass sleeve outside. This makes it extremely lightweight, and a good choice for those with back issues.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

I don't think enough people have had a chance to hear/play these Vegas to get a good feel for them. I think that bluegrass players would be pleasantly surprised if they tried one out, and its an excellent choice if you are older, or have back issues, and are tired of the weight of a typical tone ring. Or especially if you are a clawhammer player that wants to liven up your options.


I will say that the new retail cost of this banjo seems out of line with some other banjos out there.  Its a bit overpriced compared to the field, so it might be worthwhile to try to locate a used one first.  I was working at a music store when I purchased it new, so paid dealer cost (which made it a no brainer).

That being said, I've played it for 6 years straight, at hundreds of gigs, and its always been rock solid.  

Kavanjo makes a great simple adaptor, too, for fitting the input jack in an integrated manner into the flange that I have not seen on other banjos.

Overall Rating: 9

Deering: Goodtime II

Submitted by Ohio Senator on 6/6/2009

Where Purchased: Guitar Center

Year Purchased: 2008
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

The Goodtime is a great deal for the money.
They JUST upgraded the pot to a 3 ply maple, which is unbelievable for the price, and I'm anxious to hear what the new models sound like.
I love the sound of wood minus the tonering, and this banjo has great old timey flavor, if a little bright.
I used it on one track of an album I was cutting when i wanted that slanky old time sound.

Sound Rating: 8

Setup

It was set up well, and easy to adjust

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

Its simple and pleasing, but they also JUST upgraded the headstock and headstock inlays, as well as upgrading the fretboard inlays to walnut bowties. That is unreal!
Made of unstained satin maple throughout otherwise, its smooth and fast.

Appearance Rating: 8

Reliability

The guitar tuners never gave me any trouble and held their tune well (better than my Telecaster!). Was definitely dependable, i even played out with it for a few months while awaiting my Vega Bluegrass Senator.

Reliability Rating: 8

Customer Service

Deering's cust service is unbeatable, and the warranty on these has been increased to 6 years.

Customer Service: 8

Components

The new upgrades are hard to fathom at the price.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

I owned a cheap chinese banjo (maybe $3-400 value) 5-6 years ago that I never really played because I thought I didn't like the way banjos sounded and it was rough to play due to poor quality. I eventually sold it and never really expected to try banjo again.  A couple of years ago was playing drums in a band, and we didn't need any percussion on a particular track, but I thought a banjo would be a nice addition so I borrowed a Goodtime II. I haven't played drums since that day two years ago, believe it or not.  I was the banjo player in the band from then on.


Not only is the entire Goodtime line a great choice for a beginner, I think that its the only way most people should go for a first banjo.
SO many people end up with those Chinese made models with bells and whistles, but NO tone and plenty of flaws and lousy workmanship. I have a friend who spent a fair amount of cash on a GoldTone... sure he had a decent banjo, AFTER he swapped out the bridge, tone ring, tail piece, head, and tuners! For a THIRD of the price he could have had a Goodtime.

The main lesson here is you will play an instrument that doesn't make it harder than it already is, and the Goodtime line does a great job of being made well and getting out of the way.  
 

Overall Rating: 8

Other: Roland AC-60 Amplifier

Submitted by Ohio Senator on 6/6/2009

Where Purchased: Guitar Center

Overall Comments

UPDATED 1/6/15

I used this to play out with a full band (multiple guitars/drums/upright bass amplified, etc) in small venues.
It sounds pretty good and has numerous features that are needed in a live sound setting, especially for banjo players.

It has TWO inputs, one 1/4 in (instrument) input, and another that can be used for XLR (Mic) or 1/4 in. Great for running an instrument and vocals at the same time.
Has EQ on both channels, independent volumes, chorus and reverb (if you need them...).
The 1/4 in input has settings for magnetic or piezo pickups and the XLR input has phantom power for condenser mics, all of which are extremely helpful for banjo.
Has a mute button and anti feedback knob that really does work and has saved me many a time.

It has outputs for L and R XLR and mono 1/4, a subwoofer out, RCA and 1/4in L and R aux ins, a tuner out 1/4in, and two ins for footswitchable control over some of the top features.

I usually ended up using the amp as a monitor,  but have had mixed luck using the amp DI to send to the house.  Depending on venue size and the expertise of the soundman, it can either work or fail to be useful.  I don't believe the anti feedback sends to the house, so this might be the issue. Always good to have a separate DI box anyway... I can then control my own monitor volume without affecting the house's volume.

At 60 watts (30 per side, since it has two 6in speakers) its been plenty loud on its own on most occasions, but is often best as a monitor.

Ultimately, due to the various issues of playing at volume with a full band via mic or banjo pickup, I sold this amp and used the proceeds to buy a Kavanjo pickup.  The amp probably would have worked better with the Kavanjo (now that I have a few years with that), but it still didn't push quite enough sound to be the only amp you need.  Still, it serves a good purpose overall, is extremely well made, and I wouldn't mind picking another one up down the line.

 

Overall Rating: 8

Stands: On stage stands GS7462B

Submitted by Ohio Senator on 6/6/2009

Where Purchased: Guitar Center

Overall Comments

This is a simple, heavy A frame stand. Nothing holds the neck, but it seats a banjo firmly in the stand and is a good choice when gigging out. Not too expensive, either.

Overall Rating: 8

Straps: Dogwood Designs Custom

Submitted by Ohio Senator on 6/6/2009

Where Purchased: Dogwood

Overall Comments

Named engraved with oak leaf pattern. Awesome work, and great customer service. One of the buttons had fallen out of the packaging and I was sent another right away! Cool guy!

Update: 6 years later and this strap is still as great as the first day I got it!

Overall Rating: 10

Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories

0.0625