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!
6942 reviews in the archive.
Where Purchased: Janet Davis Music Company
I purchased this tailpiece as an upgrade for my Morgan Monroe Cascade banjo. The factory tailpiece was a light, pressed metal, eagle claw / clam-shell design that had a nice appearance, but was of very low quality. The Gold Tone Straightline tailpiece is heavier grade, cast brass with much better plating. The tailpiece improved the tone of the banjo considerably once I figured out exactly how it was supposed to be installed, which took some time. They don't come with any instructions. I also had to send the first article back to JDMC for exchange because the adjustment hinge-pin was bent and didn't operate smoothly. Overall, the design is good, but quality control from the factory (I'm assuming it's Chinese) is not up to par with American made parts. Nevertheless, this seems to be the only straightline tailpiece currently available that replicates the Gary Price design (which is no longer in production). I would highly recommend the tailpiece as an upgrade, but buy from a reputable dealer in-case you need an exchange. JDMC's customer service is second to none and did everything they could to get mine replaced quickly and without hassle.
Overall Rating: 9
Where Purchased: Janet Davis Music Company
Year Purchased: 2009
Price Paid: 2200 ($US)
This instrument has a great sound. It's loud and bell-like. After owning 2 Korean made instruments, I now understand why American made instruments are highly sought after and used by professional musicians. In the up the neck region above the 10th fret or so, the Korean instruments lose volume and sustain. This is not true of the Wildwood. It rings loud and bell like as far up the neck as you can accurately fret the strings. Note separation is perfect and the sustain is incredible. It really pops like a bluegrass banjo should. I took it to work this week and played with another co-worker who previously worked as a semi-professional musician. He was astounded by the sound. You can't go wrong with the Wildwood Paragon.
Sound Rating: 10
Setup was perfect from Janet Davis Music Company. Tom Andersen was great to deal with and did a fantastic job installing 5th string spikes and adjusting the neck action as low as possible without causing fret buzz. This is the second instrument I've purchased from JDMC and I wouldn't hesitate to have them setup my next instrument.
Setup Rating: 10
My Paragon has a highly figured maple resonator and neck stained with a medium brown finish. The nickel plating on the parts is of the highest quality. Mark Platin at Wildwood is truly an artist and master luthier. His inlay work is exquisite with very little filler. The mother-of-pearl and abalone inlays on the neck and headstock have an original, yet traditional look that are ornate but not gaudy. If you are looking for a professional grade instrument that has an original look rather than trying to replicate the look of a Gibson, you should consider the Paragon.
Appearance Rating: 10
The hardware on the Paragon is top notch. Mark uses a laminated neck with a two-way truss rod. The neck has a slightly shallower radius of curvature than other banjos, making the neck feel a bit beefy. It took about a week to get used to the neck profile on this banjo, but now I think I prefer it over the V neck on my other banjo. As a professional engineer, I believe the laminated neck will provide much more long term stability and reliability for the instrument.
Reliability Rating: 10
The Paragon comes with a 5 year warranty from the manufacturer. Prior to purchase I had the opportunity to exchange email with Mark Platin, the owner of the company. Mark returned answers to all of my questions within a day. I am confident that if you had warranty issues with your instrument, dealing with Wildwood would be a painless experience.
Customer Service: 10
Wildwood uses Gotoh tuners. They are smooth and reliable. The Waverly style tailpiece is solid, stable and doesn't seem like it will need to be replaced. One different thing about the Paragon is that it has only 3 retaining lugs to hold the resonator rather than 4. From an engineering standpoint, 3 point contact should be fully constrained and the 4th lug is really unnecessary. Nevertheless, some people may find this an odd design choice.
Components Rating: 10
The Paragon is a fine instrument. It's solid, playable, has great tone and the volume is incredible. I would highly recommend this instrument to anyone who wants a professional American made instrument that doesn't want to pay an additional $1000 to $2000 for the name on the headstock. If you are interested in tone, volume, playability, reliability, and great customer service, you should really consider purchasing a Wildwood.
Overall Rating: 10
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