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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!

6862 reviews in the archive.

Huber: Berkshire

Submitted by Forrest on 5/7/2009

Where Purchased: Steve Huber via Richie Dotson

Year Purchased: 2009
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

I am continually surprised by the tonal variances and potential of this Berkshire. The sound can be explosive - loud and percussive with as much sizzle andpunch as I'd ever need, or sweet, rich and full, perfect for bluesy or slower songs. The amount of effort required to go from 0 to 10 on the volume meter is surprisingly small. I find myself playing much more musically because of the ease with which I'm able to bring the sound I want forth from this banjo.

Edit (7/2/09): Fantastic sound!! This Berkshire is really opening up the more I play it. I've played it outdoors at festivals, at gigs, etc and it works well all around. It cuts a mic extremely well and punches through jams, while blending nicely in an ensemble situation. This banjo has a wonderful sound in a band setting.

Edit (12/19/09) I upgraded my Berkshire to the new HR-30 tone ring a few weeks ago and it's just starting to settle in. The HR-30 really gives a full, powerful sound in all registers and stands up very well to hard picking. I loved the sound with the Vintage ring and the HR-30 hasn't disappointed me in the least.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Richie set this banjo up and it's spot on as far as I'm concerned. The original bridge and string gauges are perfect. I've only had to keep the head snugged up to a G# as it's stretched out a bit as it settles. The action is right at 7/64" with the stock 5/8" bridge.

Edit (7/2/09): I've had this Berkshire for 2 1/2 months now (took delivery on 4/16/09). It continues to hold the setup very well. I've found that optimal tone is when the head is right at a G#. The head has relaxed several times and it still sounds great at a G, but really shines at a slightly higher tension. I've gone to the Huber Truetone strings on this banjo and they really bring out the best it has to offer.

Edit (12/19/09) Setup is the same with the new HR-30 ring. New Huber head as part of the install. Head at just above a G# seems to be a good balance of power and tone.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Flawless. The highly flamed maple is stunning with the slightly reddish stain. The modified "Hearts and Flowers" inlay is refreshingly different, yet familiar at the same time. I didn't know how I'd like it in person, since photos didn't move me either way, but as it turns out, I really, really like the look.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

10+. Steve builds this banjo as the pre-wars were built. It will outlast me and hopefully will end up in the hands of my grandkids. I have complete confidence in the materials, construction and the overall product.

Edit (7/2/09): Holding up well. No issues to report. Setup is stable. Hardware is holding well. I have complete confidence in this banjo.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Richie was outstanding in every respect. He went out of his way to help me with the purchase and I highly recommend dealing with him, should the opportunity arise. Steve and Jim at Huber Banjos are both top notch as well. I've called in the past and both have answered and been very patient and helpful.

Edit (7/2/09): Steve and Jim were awesome when it came to registering the warranty. I ordered a personalized truss rod cover and strings from Huber and the customer service was outstanding.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Top notch all the way. No weak or inferior parts here. The neck is very comfortable and seems to be quite stable. Steve has gone to great pains to reproduce pre-war parts, down to the hoop and flange, coordinator rods and even the small dome shaped 5th string pip.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I can't say enough good things about Huber banjos and this Berkshire in particular. I have a Huber Vintage and this Berkshire is right up there. I've owned a lot of banjos and really didn't plan on getting another at this point, but when I played this Berkshire at a recent workshop, I couldn't get it off my mind. I consider myself very fortunate to own this banjo. If you want one of the very best banjos being built today, you owe it to yourself to consider a Huber.

Edit (7/2/09): I've had this Berkshire for 2 1/2 months now (took delivery on 4/16/09). It continues to amaze me with the sound, feel and quality. I've played it non-stop since receiving it have have been to 2 festivals, dozens of jams, several gigs and band rehearsals and it's really opening up over time. I am very satisifed with this Berkshire.

Overall Rating: 10

Gibson: Granada

Submitted by Forrest on 4/25/2003

Where Purchased: Janet Davis Music

Year Purchased: 2003
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Deep rich sound with a nice bright edge. Plenty of contrast when you pick up by the neck and down by the bridge. Perfect for Scruggs style picking. I spent quite a bit of time tweaking the setup as I am not a big fan of the hollow tubby sound that seems to be prevalent in many of the newer Gibsons. With the current setup, my Granada still has a monster 4th string and plays powerfully and clearly all the way up the neck.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

Janet Davis did a great setup job, however, I changed things a bit to suit my taste. I put a compensated Hot Spot 11/16 bridge and tensioned the head to around an A (12 Kg-CM). I brought it up to where the bass started to drop off and backed off slightly. I also brought the action down slightly to compensate for the higher bridge.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

Wow!! What can I say?! There are times that I would rather sit and look at it than play. Beautiful flamed maple, MOP inlays, rosewood fingerboard and engraved gold plating.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

I'm sure that the gold plating on the arm rest will be toast in the next year or so, despite my best efforts. Otherwise, all of the other components appear to be top notch and should last a lifetime.

Reliability Rating: 8

Customer Service

I have not had to deal with Gibson, so I really can't answer this one. Janet Davis was absolutely great before and after the sale. She went out of her way to help me with the setup process and was very concerned with making sure that I was satisfied with my new banjo. The 10 rating is for Janet and her staff.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Everything appears to be top quality. Janet provided a 5/8 Snuffy I bridge with the banjo which was more than adequate and much better than the stock Grover. My only concern is with how the plating on the arm rest will wear over time.

Components Rating: 8

Overall Comments

This is the classic bluegrass banjo. Very expensive compared to other banjos on the market, but worth the price (to me) to own the industry standard. After doing a bit of setup, I am extremely satisfied with the sound and the way it plays, so I have no complaints. I have or have owned Stelling, Deering, OME and Gibson and my Granada is the best of the best.

Overall Rating: 10

Ome: Monarch Megatone

Submitted by Forrest on 4/24/2003

Where Purchased: Zepp Country Music, Wendell, NC

Year Purchased: 2002
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Bright and loud with plenty of pop.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

Wonderfully low action without being too mushy. I have not had to
adjust anything beyond tightening the head a 1/4 turn this spring. I
can't believe how well this banjo came set up from the OME factory,
although I am sure that Dr. Zepp tweaked things a bit before I picked it up.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

Maple with rosewood fingerboard. No flaws that I can find. Great
abalone inlays and rosewood peghead overlay. Beautiful figuring in the
flame maple neck and, believe it or not, great figure in the Braz.
rosewood fingerboard.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Top notch components and wood. Excellent plating. This thing should
last a lifetime.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Tanya at OME was a pleasure to talk to and is very friendly and customer oriented. I have 100% confidence that the folks at OME will stand behind my banjo.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Came stock with an OME straight line tailpiece, medium gauge strings,
ludwig head and a Snuffy 11/16 bridge. All top notch components. High
quality nickel plating and great fit and finish.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

Awesome banjo for both Scruggs and melodic playing. Full yet bright
sound with lots of pop. I like my Monarch every bit as much as my
Stelling Red Fox and Gibson Granada. Donald Zepp was great to deal with as part of the buying process, as was Tanya Ogsbury at OME when I called with some setup questions. Highly recommended. Considering the quality and playability, this was one heck of a bargin.

Overall Rating: 10

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