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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!

7030 reviews in the archive.

Digital Tuners: Fishman FT-1

Submitted by blanham on 4/25/2011

Where Purchased: Elderly

Overall Comments

I do not recommend this tuner. It seems to indicate a string is in tune when it is not really quite in tune. Also, to power it on and off, you have to hold down the mode button for a few seconds. You can't just press a button and quickly turn it on. Often, I accidentally switch modes because the mode button is also the power button. Stay away from this one.

Overall Rating: 3

Bart Reiter: Bacophone Plus

Submitted by blanham on 6/6/2010

Where Purchased: Used

Year Purchased: 2010
Price Paid: 1150 ($US) (bought USED)

Sound

The sound is warm, round, and very clear. My Reiter Round Peak, which has a 12" pot and rolled brass ring, is more tubby and perhaps a little more hollow sounding. They are different, and both good sounds. The tone ring system consists of a scalloped whyte laydie ring, topped with a bacon ring.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Bought used, it came with a Miller skin head, and both a Sampson bridge and a Moon bridge. I prefer the Moon bridge. It also came with a Rickard no-knot tailpiece. The action was set perfectly. I love the sound of this instrument, so I'm not planning on changing anything.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

The appearance is simple and beautiful. There is a star inlay on the peghead, and dot inlays in the ebony fretboard. The finish on the mahogany neck is glossy with a nice luster, and the hand slides easily on the neck. It is the same scooped neck Bart Reiter uses on the Round Peak, and his other recent banjos.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

The hardware is professional quality and I expect it to last. The fingerboard is a very hard ebony (according to the luthier who added 5th string spikes), so besides fret wear, it won't wear out.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Bart Reiter is very helpful when you need information about the banjos he makes.

Customer Service: 10

Components

This banjo was already upgraded, with a skin head and Rickard tailpiece, when I bought it used. The thing that stands out, is the 2 tone ring system. The combination of Whyte Laydie and Bacon rings is sometimes called a "hot-rodded bacophone." I call it "Bacophone Plus" to be more consistent with the way Reiter uses "Plus" in the names of his other models.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I'm really glad I bought this banjo. I don't think they are very common, so I would recommend buying one if you can find one.

Overall Rating: 10

Bart Reiter: Round Peak

Submitted by blanham on 2/22/2010

Where Purchased: Turtle Hill Banjo Co.

Year Purchased: 2009
Price Paid: 1150 ($US)

Sound

This is my first openback banjo, so I cannot compare it to any other openback banjos. However, I love the sound. I would not characterize it as loud or bright. On the other hand, it is not muffled. It has a great, full, old-time sound, without too much sustain. Another thing I like about it is its light weight.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The setup was okay when the banjo first arrived, but the head needed tightening. I think it is normal that a new plastic head would require a second round of tightening after a few days of stretching. The action was just fine, as shipped.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

This banjo has a simple, vintage appearance, and is very attractive. I have not found any flaws in the craftsmanship or in the finish.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

The quality of the finish is excellent, and seems like it will be durable.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Bart Reiter has been quick to reply to my emails, whenever I've had a question.

Customer Service: 10

Components

I think the component that stands out is the neck. It has a great neck shape that is wide enough for clawhammer playing, but not too wide. The tuners are good quality 5-Stars, with the standard pearlescent plastic knobs. My only complaint is that the nuts on the brackets were the flat-end nuts, which are too sharp for an openback. I replaced them with a set of ball-end nuts.

Components Rating: 8

Overall Comments

For playing solo, or with a mic in a group, this banjo definitely sounds great. It has plenty of volume in a small jam. In a large, loud jam, it may not be loud enough, unless you wear a pick. I will upgrade a few components, but for such a reasonable price, you can't expect more than this. Overall I would rate it a 9.5.

(Update after 1 year: I've started to notice that the tone of this banjo is getting even better with age.)

Overall Rating: 9

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