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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!

6942 reviews in the archive.

Romero: 11 inch Belle Rose Tone Ring

Submitted by unclekurty on 1/9/2012

Where Purchased: Romero Banjos

Year Purchased: 2011
Price Paid: worth every penny ($US)

Sound

The Belle Rose tone ring is great. I think it's more mellow than either an electric or a tubaphone ring. It does not over power the woody sound of the banjo. I think Jason and Pharis have made a ring that is different from anything available that can appeal to clawhammer and fingerstyle players. I posted a sound file on my homepage.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The banjo was set up perfectly for me with steel strings. The frets are EVO wire. Jason and Pharis know what I like. I have made no adjustments. This is my 2nd banjo with a 24.9 scale length. Usually the banjo is left in G or C tuning. I tune it up for A or D. But even with the shorter scale it's fine in G or C. The banjo responds great even when playing up the neck. It plays effortlessly. It has a goat skin head. Even with the Belle Rose tone ring this banjo has the plunky sound I like. It has a scoop along with the elegant thumb scoop Jason and Pharis do.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

All Romero banjos are unique and custom made. This one has the beautiful brass overlays they've been doing. It has a steampunk/vintage banjo vibe. Pharis cuts out the metal overlay and she does a meticulous job. It's perfect. She has to have a lot of patience. She's a living CNC machine. The figured mahogony is beautiful. The wood was not stained. It's a beautiful golden color. Underneath all the ebony is a veneer of bloodwood. It looks great especially under the long ebony backstrap. I asked for a V shaped neck. Jason carved the neck perfectly. I like a beefy neck. The finish is tru-oil and as usual it really complements the wood. The brass Romero hardware is all lightly aged on this banjo. All in all this is probably the best looking Romero I have.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

This is my 6th Romero banjo. I have had no problems with any of them. I expect the same from this banjo. Everything about this banjo is of the highest caliber.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Pharis and Jason are great to communicate with. They go out of their way to always make me a happy customer and this banjo was no different.

Customer Service: 10

Components

The Belle Rose tonering is the standout component on this banjo. Although there is nothing on this banjo that doesn't stand out. This banjo is as close to perfection for what it is as it gets. It all works together to make a great sounding and aesthetically stunning instrument.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I am one happy customer again. This banjo a pleasure to play, hear and see. I am very grateful to own and play my Romero banjos.

Overall Rating: 10

Brooks Masten: Silver Spun L30

Submitted by unclekurty on 7/10/2009

Where Purchased: ordered from maker

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

Sound

I now have Savarez High Tension nylon strings on this banjo. Forget plunk. This banjo is now all plink. It reminds me of the sound you get when you drop a tortoise shell pick on a hard surface. The full spun pot I suspect contributes mightily to this pleasant sound. At first I had steel strings on this banjo. It had a unique tone that I liked. But I didn’t think it sounded best with steels. I thought it had more potential. So I tried the nylons and bingo! This banjo with these strings is in a much better place than when it had steel strings on it. I don’t think I lost any volume. Well maybe just a bit. I think the strings compliment the sound of the pot. This banjo I imagine is very much like an old Dobson or Buckbee. It has a wonderful bassy sound on the 4th string. In retrospect I don’t know why I was even thinking of going with steel strings on a banjo like this.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

With steel strings the action arrived too high. We thought that was due to the change in locations from a wet Portland to less wet Bay Area. I asked for a 3/4 inch bridge and the bridge was 1/16+ too high. The bridge was 3.3 grams. It sounded better than other bridges I tried. This bridge was like stuffing the pot with a sock. I think this bridge was killing unwanted ringy overtones. The action was easily corrected with a lower bridge. Brooks suggested using Peghead tuners on this banjo. To me they looked strange with steel strings on them. This banjo was shouting out to me to put nylons on it. So I had the nut set up with nylons and put a Romero untopped maple bridge on it. It was getting there. The Romero bridge was 2.9 grams… another heavy bridge. I thinned it down to 1.9 grams and now I was getting this wonderful plinky sound. I asked Brooks to put on the EVO fretwire. These frets are larger than what comes on some banjos. This banjo is extremely easy to play now with nylons. I love it. My fingers sometimes don’t actually touch the fingerboard when I press down. All I need to do is press enough to pull the string down on fret. The neck angle is just right using an 11/16’s bridge. I replaced the thinned down bridge with a untopped cherry Emerson Power Bridge and got an increase in volume and bass response. By the way this bridge also weighed exactly 1.9 grams. I just received a couple of two footed bridges from Bart Veerman I’m going to try. I had Brooks put a cammed no knot tailpiece I had on this banjo. This tailpiece is great for putting on nylon strings. No knot. You just slide the string inside the cam and it works perfectly. Having this tailpiece again I wonder what I was thinking when I had this banjo set up with steel strings.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

I ordered this banjo because I liked the looks of a spun over pot. And I wasn’t disappointed when it arrived. Brooks put a veneer of highly figured of birds eye maple stained walnut inside the pot. It looks beautiful. The hardware (his own) is antiqued. It looks like a pristine pot with 30 hooks from the 1890’s. The neck is figured walnut with a clown peg head with burled walnut veneers front and back with a 1906 Indian head penny on the front. No inlay just some dots on the side of the neck. The wood has been treated lightly with tru-oil. The brass colored EVO frets match the hardware. The neck has a scoop with a brass plate. The banjo did look odd at first to me because the neck with a 25.5 scale is placed where it should be with the normal amount of frets. My other banjos have a longer neck (with the same scale) to place the bridge more towards the center of head. This left the scoop a bit on the small size but it wasn’t a problem. Now that I’m used to it I’m glad Brooks didn’t move the bridge more towards the center. It keeps the banjo more like an actual banjo from the 1890’s

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

I expect absolutely no problems. This is a well constructed banjo.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Lifetime warranty.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Brooks has his own hardware. It’s great. I like the Peghead tuners and they look appropriate with this banjo. And the pot is very cool. It’s a full spun over with a rod on the bottom of the rim and the top. I have no idea how this is made. I do know he steam-bends his wood rims himself.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I keep this banjo tuned in G or C. For some reason it sounds better to me not tuned up to A or D. The strings tune up fine to A or D though. I don’t think this banjo would sound as good with nylgut strings. The Savarez’s have much more tension. It wasn’t much of a surprise to me how much a difference a bridge can make. With these strings a thin light bridge works best. I forgot to mention the cool skin head Brooks put on it. The skin has a couple of clear spots on it and he aligned it so there a clear spot on each side of the strings where it meets the neck. The head looks like it’s been played a lot and these are wear spots. It’s stained also. Again it looks great. My only negative criticism concerns the neck. I can feel where the fretboard meets the neck along both sides of the neck. I’ve never encountered this before except on older banjos where the wood has shrunk. I don’t know why this wasn’t sanded flush. It’s barely noticeable and you can’t tell from looking at it but you can feel it. And one the dots on the side of the neck is at the 9th fret instead of the 10th fret. But I play guitar so it makes sense to me. I enjoyed talking with Brooks about this banjo. He’s great to deal with. I think this banjo completes my banjo arsenal.

Overall Rating: 10

Romero: 11" Traditional

Submitted by unclekurty on 10/15/2008

Where Purchased: J. Romero Banjos, Cobble Hill Rd B.C.

Year Purchased: 2008
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

This is an all maple banjo. The pot is deep about 3.5 inches and a bit under .5 inches thick. It has an intregal rosewood tonering with a convex upper edge. The neck has a 24.9 inch scale. Jason placed the bridge so it's @ 5 inches from the bottom of the pot. I think that makes it sound less bright. The banjo again sounds unique. It's different from my 12's. I think the deeper, thinner rim gives it a more complex sound. The larger surface of the wooden ring adds a bit more ring at the end of the note than my other wooden ring banjos. It's well balanced.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

It was set up again how I like it. This one has a thicker bridge. I tried some thinner ones but the one it came with sounds best. It came with a goat skin head that was previously on another banjo. There's plenty of room left on the tension hoop. This head is really tight right now. I haven't yet needed to tighten it. I've had problems with skin heads getting them tight but having the top of the tension hoop pulling down below the rim. It won't happen with this skin ever. I was concerned I might not like the sound of an 11 inch pot but I like the sound. It's easy to play with a 24.9 scale. The neck is thick like my frettless but it comes to a 'V' which feels great and you can see the V down the middle of the neck which looks very nice. The banjo is light. It came with Gotoh's which look great blackened. I thought about getting the Knilling pegs but this banjo has a smaller peghead and I think these are a bit smaller and fit better. The neck has a small scoop and a very small scoop along the edge of the neck where my thumb hits the 5th string. The two frets are shortened each a different length. It's hardly noticible and so very functional. I'm really glad Jason added this.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

The maple was stained dark and finished with hard oil. The pictures on my homepage look brown. It's actually grey with almost black curl. The headstock is bound in ebony along with the pot. The peghead has a curly maple veneer as well as the top of the pot. The goat skin head and bridge are also stained with the same mixture used on the wood. It has Cole inspired inlay on the first fret and also the scoop. The hardware is blackened. I think it looks great. It has an antique vibe to it. The maple on the pot is very figured and the neck wood is bery highly figured.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

This has Jason's custom hardware. It's all blackened. The shoes are two pointed ones but they are much more substantial than others I've seen. It has Jason's brass tailpiece which is attached to pot with another unique two pointed shoe Jason designed. This is heavy duty hardware.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Lifetime warranty. This is my 5th banjo from Jason. He's great to work with. I'm always pleasantly surprised with the banjos I have made. I know from the outset I'm going to get a banjo that is made meticulously with the best woods and hardware by a great luthier. Each of my banjos sound like no others. I commend Jason for always being willing to try just about anything. I'm looking forward to seeing Jason's banjos and designs getting better and better. He's always going to be raising the bar. He going to keep on having very happy satisfied customers like me.

Customer Service: 10

Components

The neck is really outstanding. It has a large Dobson style heel which is carved out on each side where your fingers would grip it. I love the beefiness and the V shape. It is nicely carved with a curve around the 5th fret tuner running along the side. The stain came out better than I imagined it. The ebony binding on the perhead is sweet. Jason choose and designed the inlay and I think it looks great.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I love Jason's banjos. I wouldn't keep ordering them if I wasn't just amazed by them.

Overall Rating: 10

Romero: Slothead Claro Walnut 12 inch Flying Eyeball

Submitted by unclekurty on 11/22/2007

Where Purchased: Arcata, CA

Year Purchased: 2007
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Sounds like a great banjo with a brass tone ring.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

It was set up perfect for me. I didn't even try other bridges.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

It's made of claro walnut. The finish is hard oil. The only inlay is of a flying eyeball in the scoop on the neck. The fretboard is also claro walnut. The fretboard was acrylized to make it harder. It also brought out the grain more. The frets are gold colored ones. They have them at LMI. They are harder than the usual frets. Jason did everything as requested so I like it all.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

He has his own tension hoop, shoes and tailpiece. The tailpiece is especially nice. All the hardware is plated in gold including the ring. The tuners are Waverlys. They are guitar tuners. I prefer these.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

It's always great coming up with a banjo with Jason. This one has a pot that is just under a 1/2 thick and it is about 3.5 inches deep. I like the sound. Lifetime warranty.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Everything on this banjo reeks of quality.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

This banjo sounds great and different than my 12 inch woodie Romero made of Chechen. I finally got a recorder and posted some crude sound clips on my homepage so you can listen to each to get an idea of the sound.

Overall Rating: 10

Romero: Morning Glory 13 inch All Wood Rim

Submitted by unclekurty on 11/26/2006

Where Purchased: Jason Romero's Workshop in Arcata, CA

Year Purchased: 2006
Price Paid: $2850.00 ($US)

Sound

It sounds huge which it is. It's very loud set up with steel strings. It's a great fretless banjo. The banjo is everything I imagined it would be.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

As with the other two banjos I have from Jason the set up was just as I had asked. We started with Saverez High Tension Yellow Card Nylon strings. Nice and beefy. I had to try steel strings and it sounded so great I decided that's what I would keep.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

It's a beauty. Chechen is a beautiful wood. Jason did a unique inlay design that came out wonderfully. This banjo is another work of art.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

I love the hard oil finish. It looks and feel great. The banjo has the Romero Ring Tailpiece and his own tension hoop.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

This banjo has a lifetime warranty.

It's always a pleasure ordering a banjo from Jason.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Everything componet of this banjo is of the highest order from the materials to the execution. It's a beautiful one of a kind completely hand built banjo.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

This banjo completes my trio of Morning Glory themed banjos from Jason.

Jason surpassed anything I could image and came up with a inlay design for the headstock, a frontal view of a morning glory flower made out of copper, mother-of-pearl and paua abalone. Also included is another unique inlay of a morning glory bud also made of copper, mother of pearl and paua abalone. The bud is the one recurring inlay motif on all three banjos.

The whole banjo is bound in flamed maple. I love the look of binding on the headstock. It really makes the banjo stand out. It has ebony peghead heel and rim overlays. The neck is chechen. The fretless fretboard is part chechen down to around where the 7th fret would be then turns to ebony. It has a frailing scoop. The nut is 1 3/8 inches. I really like the feel of a wider neck. It has a nice carving around the fifth string peg that is elegant. The neck has a boat style heel. I think it looks great. The block rim is huge, 13 inches x 3 1/2 inches with an integral Honduran Rosewood tone ring. It's an all wood rim which adds another unique look to this banjo. It has an unbleached skin head. This one comes with the Romero Ring tailpiece and Jasnon's tension hoop.

This banjo sounds great with nylon strings. But I felt it using nylons was perhaps holding back this banjos potential. I put on steels and it was amazing. This is a loud banjo with a wonderful deep bassy tone. It's a beast. I'm keeping steels on it.

I feel lucky to be the caretaker to and have the pleasure of playing and making music with this banjo along with my other banjos from Jason.

You can see pictures of this banjo at:
http://www.romerobanjos.com/0686_mg.html





Overall Rating: 10

Romero: 10 inch Banjo Uke

Submitted by unclekurty on 11/15/2006

Where Purchased: Jason Romero

Year Purchased: 2006
Price Paid: $1100.00 historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Loud or soft it has a huge tonal range.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

I haven't changed a thing. It was set up perfectly.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

It's a beautiful instrument. It's made out of chechen as my other 2 banjos from Jason and has the 'Morning Glory" motif. The workmanship is impeccable.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Gotoh tuners and Jason's own tension hoop along with his ring tailpiece.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Lifetime warranty. This is great. And Jason is great to deal with.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Everything thing is top of the line.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

This is a banjo uke made by Jason Romero. I had tried out some vintage banjo ukes but usually the scale length was too short and the pots too small for my tastes. This instrument works great for strumming along to Old Time tunes. I can get a great chunky sound perfect for the desired rhythmic accompaniment of these tunes. I use a very thin pick and nylgut strings. This uke has a 10 inch pot made out of chechen with an integral bubinga tone ring along with a skin head. It has Jason’s unusual tension hoop which is very comfortable along with his unique tailpiece. It has a concert scale neck. It has a ‘morning glory bud’ inlayed on the peghead. This is a loud ukulele. I’ve compared it to a resonator uke and found this uke to have just as much volume. Of course it’s a uke so you can use it for more traditional uke playing. It excels however in classical fingerstyle playing. In this style the tone is almost harp like. It’s a very pleasing sound. I joined the Santa Cruz Ukelele Club soon after getting this instrument. It generated a lot of interest and everyone was quite impressed with the sound. They had seen many a banjo uke but none like this. The neck feels great and the banjo looks great. I think chechen is a beautiful wood and also an excellent tone wood. If you are interested in an instrument for playing old time music consider a banjo uke. And this instrument is a great value. A higher end uke can easily cost much more then this and I think this instrument sounds great doing fingerstyle uke as well as strumming. It is very versatile. You can view pictures of this banjo at
http://www.romerobanjos.com/concert_uke.html

Overall Rating: 10

Romero: Morning Glory 12 inch All Wood Pot

Submitted by unclekurty on 5/28/2005

Where Purchased: Ordered from Jason

Year Purchased: 2005
Price Paid: 3150 ($US)

Sound

This banjo has a very pleasing tone. It's plenty loud yet has no harshness whatsover. It's easy on the ears. It makes my cat purr. Silky soft but still bell like with lot's of overtones which I consider a good thing. I want those sympathetic notes to ring. The tonal range is huge. I can get a sweet plinky sound to a loud thumping sound. This banjo can hold it's own with my steel strung Reiter with a white lady tone ring. It has a 12 inch block rim pot with a T-45 wooden tone ring with a deerskin head. Jason sands down the inside side of the skin so it's not too thick. The bass response is incredible. It's set up with nylon strings except for the 4th string which is a .24 steel guitar string. With steel strings I imagine this banjo could wake the dead. It sounds so cool though like it is I'm in no hurry to change to steel though to see. The bridge Jason made is made of submerged maple. On the bridge under each string is a hole. I believe this contributes along with the ebony tailpiece to the unique sound of this banjo. Jason beefed up the tailpiece for me so I can change to steel strings if desired.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The set up was exactly as requested. It's a great banjo for clawhammer with an old time sound. I like my action on the high side. Personally I like the sound of skin heads. Where I live skin heads aren't problematic. But they do take time to settle in. I think this banjo would also sound great with a renaissanse head.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

This banjo is a work of art. Whenever I'm out playing this banjo the comment I get the most from folks is always a variation of,"this banjo is a work of art". Jason is without doubt an extremely talented luthier. This banjo is a testament to that.

It has Jason's all wood 12 inch pot. I love the looks of Jason's all wood pot. It always gets folks attention and it really shows of the wood. The wood is checen. I had never seen this wood before. It's a light chocolate brown color with dark grain running through it. It's highly figured and beautiful. The pot has an ebony cap bound in curly maple with ebony purfling. The neck is also made of the same highly figured checen and is bound in curly maple with ebony purfling including the last inch or so of the neck where it meets the pot which just plain looks cool. The neck is 3 pieces with a quarter inch or so strip of curly maple with ebony purfling down the center of it. The heel is bound in curly maple with ebody purfling and has an ebony lamination on which Jason executed a beatiful morning glory budd with leaves in mother of pearl and paua. The back of the peghead also has an ebony lamination.The peghead itself is bound in the same curly maple/ebony combo like the rest of the banjo with an ebony lamintion on which there is a morning glory flower done in mother of pearl and paua. The binding around the peghead is the first Jason has done on a banjo. It's beautifully done and really adds a nice touch to the banjo. The neck is scooped out forming a gentle curve on the fingerboard which allows one to play a little further up the neck. Another nice and functional touch. The fretboard has morning glory budds and leaves/vines inlayed in it.The neck is carved a bit around the 5th string peg and also is carved around the heel near the fingerboard. It's hard to see on the pictures on Jason's website and it's just another nice touch that Jason does. The head is deerskin and it adds give the banjo kind of an old vibe. The tension hoop has the hooks go into it's sides and not over it's edge. It adds a very clean look to the banjo and is very comfortable to play with it like this. This banjo also has less hooks which looks better to me. I'm not sure if the added wood that the hooks go into are less weight or not then the usual hardware but it sure shows off the wood to greater effect with the all wood pot. The tuners are Gotohs with black knobs. The finish is a "hard oil" finish. I love it. The neck feels smoother to me and I think this finish really shows off the wood.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

This banjo has a lifetime warranty. It has an adjustable truss rod. Jason makes most everything from scratch. He makes his own pots, necks, tailpieces, bridges and now even the tension hopes. The quality of the parts, the workmanship and the artistry is of the highest order. This banjo will be around for a long time without doubt bringing music and happiness to those who hear and play it for many generations to come. I wish I could take it with me.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

It was a pleasure dealing with Jason. He's just a nice guy building banjos. I asked for binding around the headstock. Jason said no problem. He had to make the jigs etc for doing this. I think it's great he did this. Like I said he's a skilled luthier. I told him I'd like it set up not with steel but I might end up going to steel. No prob. He customized the tailpiece. Awesome.

I drove from the Bay Area in CA to the northern hinterlands of CA to pick this banjo up and meet the maker. It was my pleasure and Jason was great to meet. I got to see his shop and his stash of wood and the jigs and tools and the cool things these luthiers have. We sat around and played banjo. Not only is Jason a great luthier but he's one hell of a banjo player and musician. He's clawhammerist and also a fingerstyle player. He plays in an old time band and a bluesgrass band. And they both have great names. Devil's Dream is his old time band and the Compost Mountain Boys is his his bluegrass band.

It was wonderful hanging out with Jason. That's truly great customer service.

Customer Service: 10

Components

As mentioned I love the all wood pot. And the tension hoop not only looks great it feels great underneath my arm. Better looking and more comfortable yet just as functional. Wonderful. The inlay is very artistic. Not only can Jason work with wood but he can also draw. This inlay is in perfect proportion. It's art. It's beatifully done. Jason worked for Wildwood banjos. I suspect he'd done a bunch of those vines of life inlays on fretboards.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

Jason has done a lot of thinking about banjos I would guess. This banjo seems to me to be well "engineered" I suspose. Everything about it compliments another component of itself. It's fancy looking yet so tasteful. It has modern touches like the adjustable truss rod (with a wooden cover around it so it evokes the look of a dowel stick) but incorporates features seen on older banjos like the hooks going through the wood of the pot and the hooks going into the side of the tension ring instead of over the edge to update the banjo in a modern way yet still keep it looking old time but completely different. Jason's banjos are totally unique. I love it. I think this banjo was actually underpriced. I believe Jason's banjos will be collectable and will only go up in value.

11/17/06 A few months after writing this review I made some set up changes. I put on a Ren Head and put on steel strings. I keep the ren head cranked down very tight. I liked it right off and have had it set up like this ever since. You can see pictures of this banjo at Jason's site at this link:
http://www.romerobanjos.com/morningglory_tw_aw.html

Overall Rating: 10

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