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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.

Bridges: Bart Veerman 4-String Bridge

Submitted by KingStudent on 1/26/2017

Where Purchased: directly

Overall Comments

First, ditto to everything the Irish banjo player/reviewer said.  I needed a 4-string bridge with a special height (3/4") and spacing (41mm), and I'd had one of Bart's two-footers before (that one doesn't fit in this application), so I knew what I was getting.  This is the ebony-crowned teak (two-foot) bridge.  Absolutely terrific in every way (even looks!), and it gives me that "early jazz" sound - it seems to me (subjectively at least) that the two-footers are a little more hollow and punchy-sounding than the three-footers.  This bridge is perfect for my plectrum banjo: sounds, plays & looks great, and certainly is far better than the old Grovers.

Addendum: I just got two of these same bridges (ebony-crowned teak, two-foot), one for my OME tenor and one for my Stelling tenor.  There are several fine bridge makers out there these days, and I've tried a number of them, but to my ear these bridges of Bart's give the most "punch" while also increasing clarity, depth, and most importantly bass response, relative to the best of the other bridges I've tried.  In short, these are now my go-to bridges, and I have them on all of my banjos.  I might add that the engineering (height, slots, spacing) is perfect - and they look great too!

Overall Rating: 10

Ome: Minstrel

Submitted by KingStudent on 10/25/2015

Where Purchased: Matt Umanov Guitars

Year Purchased: 2015
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

12" wood rim, 25.5" scale. The best-sounding clawhammer banjo (to my ears) that I've ever heard: warm, rich, full, and plenty loud. The perfect interpolation between the 19th & 21st centuries.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The neck is perfect, with surprisingly low action (3/32" @ 12th fret) despite zero buzz. Fret work, bridge, neck relief, all ideal. The first banjo every that I have not tweaked in any way at all, nor do I expect to, for a long long time.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Gorgeous. Scroll peghead, overall 19th century look. Everyone comments on it the minute I take it out of the case.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

This is an heirloom banjo: I expect it to last, well, long past my lifetime.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Great company, excellent warranty.

Customer Service: 10

Components

All of the parts are top-grade, especially the custom OME "Sweetone" tailpiece. I wouldn't change a thing.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I had never even held an OME in my hands, but the minute I did I knew it was something special.  This particular model suits me (and my playing) perfectly: it's ideal for clawhammer; and I've even tried some plectrum strumming on it and it's fine for that too.  The number of small improvements in this instrument (e.g., having a different bolt for the tailpiece and the dowel stick, thereby removing a typical design weakness) add up to a truly impressive overall instrument.  And did I mention the S-shaped frailing scoop with inlaid four-pointed star?  Highly, highly recommended.

Overall Rating: 10

Dean Robinson [dean-o-craft]: New neck & rework for old Kay/Silvertone

Submitted by KingStudent on 10/6/2014

Where Purchased: directly from Dean

Year Purchased: 2014
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Sounds like the original!

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

Very well setup. New neck is slightly wider than standard, which I like.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Beautiful.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

As dependable as the original.

Reliability Rating: not rated

Customer Service

Excellent communication etc.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

The idea was to re-neck and improve my father's old Kay/Silvertone 5-string (which I learned on), while preserving its original character -- early 60's modest inexpensive folk era instrument.  Dean did this to perfection, while improving upon the original neck enormously.  It's now very playable and sounds quite good (truthfully I can't recall exactly how the original sounded).  The main thing is that the fit-and-finish of the new work are excellent, including such matters as matching a nonstandard reddish finish on the original pot, putting a pearloid overlay on the headstock to match the original, and so on.  It's now a pleasure to see and play, and will last another 50 years.

Overall Rating: 10

Zachary Hoyt: 17 fret tenor

Submitted by KingStudent on 6/17/2014

Where Purchased: custom order

Year Purchased: 2014
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Sound is excellent, characteristic of 17-fret tenors. Punchy, loud, but still warm and enjoyable.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

I asked for a specific action (~3/32" @ 12th fret) and it was set up exactly for that. No changes except tightening the head a little. Strings were dead center on the neck, all very good.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

This is a block rim, not sure of the woods. Fretboard is jatoba or "Brazilian Cherry," very nice. Simple appointments, dot markers etc., no headstock inlay, but nice looking nonetheless.

Appearance Rating: 8

Reliability

Very solidly built, excellent connection of neck to pot (dowel stick), no issues, I expect it to last.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Zach was great to work with, good communication, very efficient.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Parts are all good; I asked for a simple no-knot tailpiece etc. so nothing fancy.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

Overall this is a very nice 17-fret tenor, simply but effectively fulfilling the possibilities of its design (which was after all very popular in the 1920's & 30's).  Solidly built from good woods and parts, exactly according to my requests.  Nice job.

Overall Rating: 9

Tailpieces: Dan Goodrich BTL4

Submitted by KingStudent on 4/11/2012

Where Purchased: directly from maker

Overall Comments

This is a "fingered" tailpiece with an independently movable/adjustable finger for each string. (Mine is installed on a plectrum banjo, hence 4 strings.) See http://www.4stringbanjos.com/Tailpieces/DGTensionLockWorkpage.html. Superb design *and* fabrication quality. Mine is chrome-plated. Significant points: (i) There is a small shelf or overhang that allows for correctly positioning of the tp on the tension hoop, eliminating guesswork in that regard. (ii) The adjustability is so flexible, with effects on string volume and tone ranging from subtle to distinct, that I have not yet finished exploring all the possible variations. (iii) String replacement/mounting is as easy as can be, unlike many tp's. (iv) I was concerned that it would be overly massive and heavy, overbalancing the instrument (mine is open-back), but that is not the case; the weight is just right, not too much or too little. (v) Installation is simple (despite the highly detailed instruction sheet). (vi) Indeed this tp makes it possible to adjust each string's sound separately, just as claimed. All in all a beautiful piece of craftsmanship.

Overall Rating: 10

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