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!
6873 reviews in the archive.
Where Purchased: Hatfield Banjos
Year Purchased: 2005
Price Paid: 2200 ($US)
This banjo sounds fantastic. It has a warm mahogany tone that is rich and full. It is quite loud (rivaling a maple Stelling that I also own) with good consistency of tone and volume all the way up the neck. I have played around with various set-ups and have discovered that although there are the expected variations in tone depending on the selection of bridge, tailpiece, head tension etc., the underlying voice of the instrument remains pretty consistent. My guess is that Arthur's choice of ring (Hatfield) and rim (Cox) and the way that they work together play a big part in this (as they have been two of the major "constants" during my experimentation). Despite all my tinkering, however, for strait-up Scruggs style picking this banjo sounds its best when it is setup to Arthur's specifications.
Sound Rating: 10
I had Arthur ship the banjo to me with the neck detached from the pot assembly in order to minimize the risk of shipping damage. I consulted Arthur about his set-up technique and installed the neck, bridge, tailpiece etc. to his specifications. Everything fit together well and the banjo was very playable from the get go. Before taking it apart for shipment, Arthur had played the banjo in his shop for some time, to make sure it was set-up properly, to pick out the right bridge etc.. This effort was evident when I put the banjo back together.
Setup Rating: not rated
This banjo's beauty lies in its simplicity. The mahogany neck and resonator veneer are stained a rich brown and the finish is flawless. I appreciate Arthur's use of cream colored binding and tuner buttons, they compliment the color of the instrument nicely. The fretboard is a medium-dark rosewood and I love Arthur's original "snowflake" like inlay pattern, it really sets his banjos apart.
Appearance Rating: 9
I purposely waited until I had played this banjo for more than six months before submitting a review. I have been using this banjo exclusively at live performances since I received it and these shows have taken place in different seasons (which are fairly extreme where I live) and in many types of venues (from night clubs to outdoor festivals). The construction and fit of the various components of this banjo are quite solid. I feel this is a very reliable, trustworthy instrument.
Reliability Rating: 10
I dealt directly with Arthur via email and telephone conversations throughout the ordering process and construction of the banjo. Arthur's customer service is top notch, he answered my emails promptly and was always happy to chat when I called him. He was willing to talk about his philosophy of banjo building, recommend parts and set-up possibilities (even if they differed from his choices), A/B different banjos over the phone, tell you a story about a famous picker he knows- you name it! I think having a human "banjo knowledge base" just a phone call or email away, is worth a premium in and of itself. All and all, it was a very special customer service experience, dealing with a real person who obviously takes a lot of pride in what he does.
Customer Service: 10
The components on this instrument are all of the highest quality: Cox rim and resonator, Hatfield tone ring, Prucha hardware, Gotoh tuners, Presto tailpiece and a Hatfield compensated bridge. Arthur did a great job with the neck, it is quite comfortable and playable. Arthur shipped it with GHS strings of the following sizes: .010-.011-.013-.020JD-.010. As I mentioned earlier, I played around with some different components to find a combination that was best suited for my playing style but in the end I changed very little. I prefer a heavier tailpiece and so I have settled on a Kershner (for now), otherwise everything is stock. Of particular note, I tried out a bunch of different "boutique" bridges that I have collected over the years but nothing sounded as good on this banjo as the Hatfield bridge that Arthur picked out for it. Perhaps the most important thing about the different components of this banjo is that they were all chosen by Arthur, based on his many years of experience, not only for their individual qualities but for how they work together.
Components Rating: 10
Folks, this is A LOT of banjo for your Buck! If this banjo were stolen I would call Arthur (as soon as I got the insurance check) and ask him to start on a new one ASAP!
Overall Rating: 10
'Good Sunday Morning' 49 min