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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!

6847 reviews in the archive.

Sears Silvertone: N/A

Submitted by fiddlingbear on 11/11/2005

Where Purchased: Sears Catalog

Year Purchased: 1968
Price Paid: 60.00, more or less ($US)

Sound

It actually sounds pretty good, and was my only banjo for over 30 years. The sound is pretty chunky--not a great amount of ring to it, but it's good for clawhammer playing to accompany singing. It isn't a subtle instrument. A bit of tweaking might help--I really don't know.

Sound Rating: 7

Setup

The set up was pretty poor when I got it. After a few years I realised I could improve the action by wedging the finger board side of the heel to give it more angle.

Setup Rating: 5

Appearance

The neck looks pretty good, except that it is a painted neck. The resonator had an acceptavble sunburst finish. The position markers, as well as the logo on the headstock, are painted on. The tension hoop is quite thin.

In general, one can look at is, and tell that it's a 5-string banjo.

Appearance Rating: 4

Reliability

I could use this banjo to paddle a canoe, and then play a gig with it later that day. It has worn like iron over the years, in spite of treatment that would offend a real--read "good"--banjo wouldn't tolerate.

Reliability Rating: not rated

Customer Service

Does not apply. Now if it were a Craftsman banjo, it would have a lifetime replacement guarantee, but not a Silvertone

Customer Service: not rated

Components

The neck has remained straight, and the frets have held up remarkably. It has the original tuning machines for the full length strings. They are the best features

On the other hand, the head, which was one of the shiny white ones, ripped soon after I got the banjo--due to over tightening on my part. The friction thumb peg gave out after a mere 12 or 14 years. The plated parts--hooks, tension hoo, etc., are all rusted now. The pot is made of masonite or some other type of particleboard, but it has held its shape well over the years. The resonator is held on by two knurrled knobs screwed through two eyehooks in the body. The fingerboard is softer wood than one might like.

Components Rating: 5

Overall Comments

I cannot tell how many hours of playing time, and pleasure I have from this old beater. It has almost developed a halo. I've watched it put smiles on the faces of hundreds of people, and have felt it draw troubled feelings out of my heart innumerable times.

I love it. If I were to lose it, I would probably actually shed tears.

It doesn't compare to other banjos I've played. It has something that works with me. I did once tell a fellow in about 1975, after playing his Gibson Mastertone, that I preferred my Silvertone. His banjo sounded very thin and brittle by comparison. It doesn't stand up well to other banjoes, and it has been in partial retirement since I got my Vega Electric. But it remains close at hand. I still fantasize about inlaying "The Silvertone" on the headstock, but it would probably just make the paint look cheap.

Overall Rating: not rated

Vega: Electric

Submitted by fiddlingbear on 11/9/2005

Where Purchased: John Bernunzio

Year Purchased: 2004
Price Paid: Don't Remember (bought USED) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

This banjo is remarkably clear, with just enough sustain to give it warmth. I primarily play a sort of melodic clawhammer, but occasionally I lapse into some 3 finger work, and this banjo can handle it all.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

It was set up beautifully when I received it. It had a new Weather King head, which I thought I wouldn't like at first, but the brightness, and sustain it provides are a joy to play. In spite of the light guage strings, it really sings out. The only set up problem I have found is the 5th string brad (not spike). It tends to slide in and out. I'm currently trying a Reagan 5th string capo when needed, so it isn't a severe problem. There is a small difficulty with the 5th string friction peg, in that it doesn't hold as well as it should, and requires me to carry a small screw driver at all times.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

This banjo has a few simple inlays on the finger board, and a plain peg head veneer. Apparently, some one had once installed some over sized pegs, which, when replaced, left ugly inserts in the face of the peg head. The neck and pot are mahogany. The plating on the metal pot hardware is still shiny in spite of the banjo's age (1927). While not as flashy as a White Laydie, the Electric has the same tone ring. I am a player, not a collector, so the working banjoist appearance is perfect for me.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Apart from the 5th string tuning peg, I feel totally confident in this banjo. I can depend on it any and every where. I've gigged with it quite a bit, and it has never even suggested that it might let me down.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

The original company is long gone, and I haven't even thought about contacting the current Vega outfit. John Bernunzio, on the other hand, was most attentive to my fiance' when she was buying me the instrument, and also to me when I wrote to ask about string guages and the like.

Customer Service: 10

Components

The pot/tone ring are outstanding. Other musicians stand up and take notice of the sound when they hear it. The hardware is heavy and seems reliable. That 5th string peg is the only weak link. I'd get a geared one, but I don't want to ream holes in the neck of a vintage banjo.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

This banjo is too good to be true, and at the price my fiance paid, a bargain. I'd be heart broken if it were stolen. I guess I could replace it with a Reiter, a Ramsey, or even a Gold Tone with the same tone ring, action, etc., but they wouldn't have the soul this one does. For me, there is no other bnajo for what I do. When I got it, I told my fiance' it was too good for me. All the slop in my playing came right to the top. It took me several months to clean up enough to be3 comfortable with it. Now, it's the only one for most applications. I love it.

Overall Rating: 10

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