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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!

6879 reviews in the archive.

Gibson: Earl Scruggs Signature '49 Classic

Submitted by flake on 4/30/2007

Where Purchased: Private Sale

Year Purchased: 2005
Price Paid: 2500 ($US) (bought USED)

Sound

I have always preferred the typical Gibson tone, and got what I pretty much expected. Being maple, it was extremely bright, but had a good bass and a nice, "sweet", almost "syrupy" midrange. Loud, but not the loudest banjo I have ever heard. Has good sustain. With the correct right hand, it can go from cutting to an almost Crowe sounding banjo.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

The head on this banjo was way too tight when I got it. The action was a little low for me, but no buzzes. Arthur Hatfield told me it's as good a heel cut and fit as he's seen. The ring fit was good in fair humidity, but a little tight when it got higher. It also seemed to have an almost "tone bell" cut to the rim from the factory, so a couple of 1000ths were removed to allow proper seating of the ring. This opened everything up full bore, and turned it into a real mic-cutter....tone is consistent and pure now. Went to a higher bridge (.656) without a heel refit necessary and use Black Diamond Lights and Keith Tuners on 2 & 3. Stock Presto set "about" 3/8" off the head, not contacting the hoop. Rods set at neutral.

Setup Rating: 8

Appearance

This banjo is a 1991, made in October, the tenth in the series. It was made under Greg Rich's supervision, and even though I received it years after it left the factory, it had been in the hands of a collector. Thus it was in mint condition. It was flawless: choice of woods, fit, finish---nothing on the banjo had been handled by chance. It almost appeared as if it had been hand-walked through the shop. You couldn't have followed them around, procedure by procedure, and had them assemble it any more carefully. The label is hand signed both by Earl and Greg Rich.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

The hardware is excellent. The flange had developed a slight smiley towards the neck end, due to the high tension the head was under before I acquired the banjo. The finish is completely intact through two years of playing, one year in all kinds of weather at gigs indoors and out. First four frets have been replaced, with some noticeable wear to about 40% of the remaining frets. One tuner slipped once. I tightened the screw. I think I carried a backup one time.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

Not Applicable

Customer Service: not rated

Components

The neck on this banjo is perfect. Whoever made it had magic fingers! Binding, inlay...the whole thing just sings! And the neck/heel cut was perfect. Whoever was supplying Gibson with their "Gibson" stamped Prestos wasn't making the most convincing tailpieces in the world.....my stock one is in a box, replaced by a heavier model from First Quality. A little disappointed in the flange going smiley, but it's a one-piece, and as I said, the banjo was under much too much tension when I got it.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

Recommend it for $2500? Yep....for $5000, too.
If it was stolen, I would go looking for serial numbers 1 through 9, and pray that one of them was as well taken care of as this one.
Yeah, I love it. It's not your typical H&Fs or FE banjo. Nor is it your typical Bow Tie. It really does approximate what Earl's banjo looked like for many years. And you don't see that many. McCoury played one for a while, though, I believe. I don't know if this was Greg Rich's idea or not, but if it was, it's one of the better ones he's had, as far as I'm concerned........mk

Overall Rating: 9

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