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!
7055 reviews in the archive.
Where Purchased: Bluegrass Festival from J.D.
I was extremely excited when I heard about this "new" CD. It's actually a CD release of live recordings that were done when the group was in Japan back in the late 70's. This is the original New South band, featuring the same members as the famed Rounder 0044 album, so I was very anxious to get my hands on it. I bought this 2-CD set from J.D.'s record table at a recent bluegrass festival, and he graciously autographed it for me. I was a bit hesitant at paying $30, even for a 2-CD set, but felt this was an opportunity to own a historic recording that I had only heard others talk about.
I popped the first CD in the player on the way home that night, and I immediately thought that I must have gotten a defective CD. The entire CD sounds as if only the mics that Ricky Skaggs' was singing and playing into were being recorded. You basically only hear Ricky's backup vocals and picking, and his occasional mandolin breaks; you can barely hear the lead or other harmony vocals, or the other instruments' breaks.
I thought surely this CD must be defective, so I switched to Disc Two, and it was almost as bad, but not quite. I was extremely disappointed to barely be able to hear J.D.'s banjo breaks and Tony's lead vocals. I was set to send the CD back for an exchange, and then someone on the BHO told me theirs was the same way, and that this is how all of these CDs sound.
In this age of technology, it's almost inconceivable to me that a recording company has issued such a terrible-quality recording. Surely there are better versions somewhere that they could have used as the master for producing these CDs? If this is indeed the best that exists, then they should have made that very clear on the package, and the cost should have been more like $10 or so.
I don't fault J.D.; I've heard since that he is very disappointed with the quality of these CDs. Still, he could have chosen not to sell them from his record table; I would have gladly bought some of his other CDs with the money that I spent on these.
Overall Rating: 3
Where Purchased: Wal-Mart
I have the two original Gaither Bluegrass Gospel Homecoming DVDs, and both are excellent. When I saw these new ones, I jumped at the chance to buy them (less than $15 each at Wal-Mart). Both are excellent DVDs, and include a variety of both bluegrass, country, and Southern Gospel artists performing some great gospel numbers. At first I was a bit disappointed that these weren't totally bluegrass, but after watching them a couple of times I came to appreciate and enjoy most of the other performers on there as well. Some very good music, with a very good spirit about the whole thing. Some of the artists include DL&Q, Dailey & Vincent, the Grascals, RV&R, Ralph Stanley & CMB, the Isaacs, Marty Stuart, Cherryholmes, Larry Sparks, Vince Gill and George Jones, plus several others. I would highly recommend these DVDs.
Overall Rating: 9
Where Purchased: from IIIrd Tyme Out
I had been waiting eagerly for this DVD ever since I found out that it was in the works. I bought it last week at the Denton Fall Bluegrass Festival, where IIIrd Tyme Out was appearing. I already had the CD, so I knew the music was going to be great. The DVD includes the same songs as the CD, but also includes the talking between the songs, and the introductions to the songs and of the players. The DVD also includes interviews with each of the band members (although I didn't see an interview with Alan Perdue, so I'm not sure if it was on there and I just missed it). I enjoy not only hearing the music, but watching it being made, so I really enjoyed this DVD a lot. It was well worth the money and the wait.
Overall Rating: 10
Where Purchased: Appalachian Music Shoppe (Boone, NC)
Year Purchased: 2004
Price Paid: 825 ($US)
I've only been playing for a few months, so I'm certainly not an expert on what it should sound like, but the banjo sounds great to me. It really rings. My banjo teacher said that it sounded better than many banjos that cost 2-3 times as much.
Sound Rating: 8
Again, I'm not very experienced with this, but it seemed to be set up very well. I'm not very fond of the Grover bridge as I seem to be getting some buzzing on the third string. I plan to try some different bridges in the very near future to see what sounds best.
Setup Rating: 8
The banjo is absolutely beautiful. It is gold plated and all the plating shines like a mirror. The sunburst on the back of the resonator is gorgeous; too bad it's on the back where it can't be seen as much. When I bought it, the finish on the peg head was very cloudy, so Gold Tone replaced the entire neck at no cost.
Appearance Rating: 10
This banjo seems like it would last for a very long time, as long as it were taken care of. Very heavy and appears to be well made. I managed to remove the gold plating from the armrest about 2 days after I bought it; I tried to clean it with a cleaner that was "safe for all finishes", but it wasn't. If I ever start playing gigs, I won't hesitate to use this without a backup.
Reliability Rating: 9
As stated above, Gold Tone replaced the entire neck due to the cloudy finish on the peg head. I returned it to the dealer and he shipped it back to Gold Tone. They replaced the neck and had it back to me within 2 weeks. They also replated (or replaced) the gold on the armrest, all at no cost. I was very pleased with their responsiveness, and with that of Appalachian Music Shoppe in Boone, NC. The banjo has a lifetime warranty to the original owner. I've tried contacting Gold Tone a few times by email but have never received a response, so this could use some work.
Customer Service: 9
Everything on this banjo stands out. I haven't had any problems so far, but I do think the Grover bridge that came on the banjo will be replaced soon.
Components Rating: 9
I would highly recommend this banjo. I'm very pleased with it. Again I admit that I'm still just a beginner and I haven't played a lot of the other banjos that are out there, but from what I've seen so far, this one is great. If the banjo were stolen I would definitely look for another one like it, but I would probably wait until I were a better player and would probably play more banjos before making a choice. I would love to hear this one beside a Gold Star GF-85, and also beside some of the higher-end banjos like the Tennessee Crafters and others, just to hear how much difference there is in their sound. For what I paid, I don't think I could have bought a better new banjo (with the warranty that goes with it).
Overall Rating: 9
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