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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!

6852 reviews in the archive.

Microphones: Gold tone ABS-C

Submitted by psikes on 2/21/2017

Where Purchased: Reverb

Overall Comments

This was purchased to allow me to play in a large venue without having to stay on top of a Shure SM57 and get clean amplification of my banjo. The sound is very good with no detectable artifacts to my ear. I am running it through an ART Tube pre amp and was able to fill a 250 seat room with no problems. The only small niggle I have is with the mounting bracket. It does the job but can be very finicky in getting it adjusted to the banjo and then must be removed before putting the banjo back in the case. Being a condenser mike it does require phantom power, hence the need for the ART pre amp in the mix. I am mounting this to my Deering John Hartford model. I wish there was an easy way to attach it to my Nechville banjos without modifying it.

Overall Rating: 8

Capos: Kateyz Capo B Capo: V-frame

Submitted by psikes on 4/4/2016

Where Purchased: Manufacturer

Overall Comments

I own a couple of other high end capos for flat neck banjos but had heard great things about Kateyz capos from several friends. Phil made this one for my Nechville Saturn with a radius fretboard and it is great. Playing with the capo on sounds the same as with no capo. What could be better than that? Easy to adjust and sounds great. I would definitely buy one again. 

Overall Rating: 10

Mutes: Mike's Banjo Mute

Submitted by psikes on 3/9/2016

Where Purchased: Mike himself

Overall Comments

 

What a great little device! I am usually up much earlier than my wife but had a hard time practicing due to the loudness of the banjo. I finally broke down and ordered one of Mike's banjo mutes for a non-radius bridge and it works great. It also works quite well on my radius bridge banjo. 

Thanks for the great product, Phil 

Overall Rating: 10

Cases (Hard, Flight): Superior(Saga) CF-1530B Fiberglass Resonator Banjo Case

Submitted by psikes on 11/17/2015

Where Purchased: Amazon.com

Overall Comments

I just received this case this afternoon so no experience carrying it for extended periods, just a comment about quality. I needed a sturdy and protective case for my Deering John Hartford model and for the price I just do not see how this can be beat. The manufacturer must have been listening because the lid strap is a perfect length and neck support is great. My Hartford fit like a dream and I feel much better about the protection of my banjo. I would buy it again in a heartbeat.

Overall Rating: 9

Strings: Straight Up Strings

Submitted by psikes on 7/30/2015

Where Purchased: Siminoff

Overall Comments

I just put a set of these on my Hartford banjo and so far I am liking them quite a lot. Very balanced sound all over the fretboard and easy on the fingers. Pull offs and hammer on' sound clear and ring true. Next will be to put some on my Nechville Saturn. 

Four months later and I am sold on these strings. I still have the original set on my Hartford and Nechville Saturn. I do tend to play the Saturn the most and after four months they are finally starting to display some signs of wearing out. They still feel great and sound great too. Now that hey have a set for the guitar I will try a set of them on my Taylor GS Mini. Great strings!

Overall Rating: 9

Deering: John Hartford

Submitted by psikes on 5/23/2015

Where Purchased: Elderly

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

Sound

Absolutely amazing sound from this banjo. The volume and tone from just floored me. I play a mix of a everything from 3 finger to clawhammer to folk and this covers all the bases for me.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Setup was okay but the bridge was just a tad undersize from 5/8 so I ordered a new Nechville Enterprise bridge for it.

Setup Rating: 8

Appearance

For an almost 30 year old banjo it is a thing of beauty. The finish is in remarkable shape and the hardware looks great.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

The tuners are still in great shape and hold tune quite well.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

Deering has always been most helpful anytime I have had need of them.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Fit and finish on the John Hartford model are great.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

I have wanted to own a John Hartford model since first seeing John play one. I am not in the least disappointed in this one, in fact I am absolutely elated. There are so many great sounds available on this banjo depending on where you happen to be picking that it is like having multiple banjos in your hands all at once. Down by the bridge it is bright, crisp, dry and clean. Moving towards the neck and it starts getting mellow without getting muddy. I am totally happy with this banjo.

Overall Rating: 10

Nechville: Moonshine XL

Submitted by psikes on 7/23/2014

Where Purchased: Emerald City Guitar

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

Sound

The volume of this open back banjo is remarkable. A very rich sound that works well for clawhammer or three finger either one.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The setup was absolutely spot on. Al Price had done a setup on it in the store before I got my hands on it. The intonation is superb.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

I love the Saturn inlay design for its simplicity and the looks of the Nechville banjo in general so it just could not be beat for my preferences.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

I am very impressed with the tuners that Nechville uses and the rest of the banjo looks like a tank could roll over it without damaging it. No reason to expect any future problems with this banjo ever.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

If you have ever had dealings with Nechville then you know they have customer service second to no one. Whether you deal with Tom or Al, it is like you are talking to an old friend that cares about you.

Customer Service: 10

Components

No weak points that I can see at all.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I will more than likely add the pop on resonator before too long, but I am totally happy with the open back for now. 

Overall Rating: 10

Hal Leonard: The Real Bluegrass Book

Submitted by psikes on 4/26/2014

Where Purchased: Amazon

Overall Comments

A very good book of bluegrass lead lines, chord changes and lyrics. I used the jazz Real Books for years and was tickled pink when I found the Bluegrass version. Well worth the money. 429 pages of bluegrass happiness.

Phil

Overall Rating: 8

Nechville: Saturn

Submitted by psikes on 4/20/2014

Where Purchased: Penny Lane Music

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

Sound

I love the sound of this banjo. I play 3 finger style and the sound from one end of the fret board to the other is clear as a bell. Beautiful ring and sustain.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The setup was great. Out of the box all I had to do was raise the bridge and tune it up. With a Nechville I never need worry about setups again as I can do it all myself with minimal fuss.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

I for one like the looks of Nechville banjos. The minimalist inlay on the Saturn was one of the things I liked most about it. The inlaid planet Saturn looks very cool and the stars complete the look. The finish looks like it should outlast me for sure.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

What hardware there is on a Nechville all looks substantial and well done. I would never worry about this banjo without a backup on hand.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

None needed. The folks at Nechville are second to none. Tom did some work on a Deering for me at Wintergrass and was as gracious and friendly as anyone could ask for.

Customer Service: 10

Components

The Enterprise bridge is great. I had Tom put one on my Deering when he was working on it and it never sounded better. The helical mounting is fantastic. I love the radiused neck too.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

One year later and still in love with this banjo. Even though i have only had the banjo in my hands for 2 days I have hardly put it down in that time. This is a very comfortable banjo to play and hold weighing a fraction of what my Golden Era weighs. That is what started me on this journey in the first place, looking for a woodie banjo that didn't weigh a ton but still had that bluegrass crackle when needed. 

You will have to look long and hard to find better people than Tom and Al. I think we need to add a Spinal Tap rating of 11 on here.

Overall Rating: 10

Recording King: ne plus ultra 036

Submitted by psikes on 5/16/2010

Where Purchased: Used (Mando Mutt)

Year Purchased: 2010
Price Paid: 750 ($US) (bought USED)

Sound

When we received the banjo it only had a 1/2 inch bridge on it and the action was too low. I built some 5/8 bridges and installed one and the action and sound was greatly improved. We got this for my wife to learn old time banjo styles and the sound is great for that style. Even playing Scruggs style the sound is pretty good.

Sound Rating: 7

Setup

Coming from a mandolin shop the setup was less than stellar. But, for a used banjo it wasn't too bad other than the bridge.

Setup Rating: 5

Appearance

The instrument is beautiful. The maple is very nice and the inlay was very well done on the tree of life. The headstock is a little busy but very attractive.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

The hardware seems to be okay for the most part. The 5th string tuner was loose on arrival and it took some work to get it to stay in place. We will probably replace it the next time I order strings and other parts.

Reliability Rating: 7

Customer Service

I did email Recording King twice and received very prompt and informative replies. They seem to be a good company to deal with.

Customer Service: 9

Components

None apparent so far.

Components Rating: 8

Overall Comments

Great banjo that plays as good as it looks.

Overall Rating: 9

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