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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!

6953 reviews in the archive.

Deering: Sierra Maple

Submitted by BlueRanchRider on 3/8/2014

Where Purchased: The Music Outlet

Year Purchased: 2014
Price Paid: 1650.00 ($US)

Sound

You get out of this banjo what you want to. Hard driving banjo tunes? Stay close to the bridge. Softer playful tunes? Move up the head toward the neck. The banjo can be played softer or harder and the result is exactly proportional to what you're telling it to do with the right hand. Awesome sound. Clear notes, brilliant tone. I love it.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The only thing I changed was the bridge and that had nothing to do with performance of the Deering 5/8 bridge. The reason I switched is for the Crowe spacing. I put a Gary Sosebee Red Maple bridge on and love it. The action is setup perfectly for me, the head tension was right at 90.5 upon arrival. All I needed to do was set the intonation on the new bridge and pick a tune.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

This banjo is the newer version which has the new Victorian inlay pattern which I really love. Some may not but it fits me well. The finish is satin which I love for the playability. The fretboard, headstock and inlays appear much darker than other banjos due to the wood/ebony fretboard. No blemishes or oddities anywhere in the appearance of this banjo. It looks as good as it sounds.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Good solid wood and metal components give all the confidence that this banjo will last me a lifetime. I'm guessing the head and frets will show wear before anything else. But that's true of all banjos in my experience.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Lifetime warranty. Had an issue filling out the warranty and accessories and of all people Janet Deering was quick to reply to my email here on the hangout. This is my 3rd Deering banjo and I've had nothing but positive and friendly service from Deering.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Nothing seems cheap or shortcut on this banjo. The ring to rim fit is the best I've ever had on a banjo. The neck angle is very good, exactly where I like the action. Tuners are buttery smooth and hold tune well.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

You can find banjos that sound good for less money, I know, I've owned several.  But the hassles that I had to put up with and the fit and craftsmanship flaws that I had to overlook continually frustrated me.  I wanted a good sounding banjo that I wasn't disgusted about how it fit together or cosmetic/other blemishes.  Yes, you get what you pay for and with this purchase I did exactly that.  This is a banjo untouchable by any other for the price that I paid.  

This pot assembly is the same one used in many of the higher end Deering banjos including the GDL.  You cannot beat the value for this banjo.  With the new 06 20 hole ring, maple rim and Victorian inlays it now looks and sounds incredible.  The Deering deluxe archtop case is a solid case, a perfect fit with plenty of padding inside and a large compartment for storage.  Six latches hold the banjo inside securely.  

Lists at 2749.00 and street is 2199.00.  So for 1650.00 plus shipping (90.00/COD) I am perfectly pleased.  I researched this banjo for years, played both maple and mahogany Sierras and finally pulled the trigger and made the purchase.  A very satisfied customer.  Thanks Deering!  Keep up the good work.

Overall Rating: 10

Head Tension Gauges: Steve Davis's DHTG

Submitted by BlueRanchRider on 3/7/2014

Where Purchased: Steve Davis

Overall Comments

The most often repeated words given to new banjo players is to 'tighten that head up real good and that banjo will crack! Course, don't tighten it too much or you'll bust it.'  I remember that statement several times and I wanted to get the most out of my banjo but sure didn't want to bust the head.  So with fear and trembling I adjusted each bracket ever so slightly waiting for that pop to occur.  Then, one day on the hangout, Steve Davis spoke of a stick and quarter method.  Take a 10" straight ruler and place it parallel with the strings on the head.  When you can put a quarter under the ruler at the bridge you're in the ballpark of good tension.  From there, adjust in 1/4 turn increments tighter or looser to achieve desired sound. This simple method opened my eyes to the truth that I was nowhere near tension on the head.  I had a long way to go before I reached an optimum range.  No doubt many new banjo players have and are experiencing such frustration or uncertainty.  

Enter the DHTG, the Davis Head Tension Gauge and when used gives an exact measurement of head note (G#) when gauge rests fully on all three legs on the head. The middle leg rests exactly at the bridge with the longer portion directed towards the neck and the shorter toward the tailpiece. If a desired note is greater or lesser, 1/4 turn up or down on the bracket hooks will put you at A or G.  The beauty of this simple tool is that you can quickly and easily get a banjo head up to a desired note and work up or down from there.  No more busted heads, no more doubting and guessing about tension.  This tool is a great tool for the case, in which it fits easily inside the compartment inside my Deering case.  

For what it's worth, I received my DHTG just as I was taking delivery on a new Sierra.  The dealer setup had the head running around 90.5 on the Drum Dial.  This would have been my starting place, or maybe a tad higher to allow for stretching and settling down.  Since I cannot yet tap notes and hear them I used the DHTG to see where it registered.  With the strings tuned the Gauge tottered a bit at the bridge, indicating a Head tension higher than G#, or what many consider close to an A note, reading 90-91 on the Drum Dial.  Whether the note is accurate or not I cannot tell, but what I do know is that this measurement is repeatable and easily duplicated should I ever need to disassemble or repair my banjo.  Good stuff, there. 

This product is a great tool to have for making adjustments to or installing new heads on banjos.  Takes any guess work out of 'how tight is too tight' and puts you in a working tension that can easily be repeated.  And you don't have to cut down a ruler, or keep up with loose change in your case.  Contact Steve Davis for a Gauge.  They come in Red, Blue, and Yellow.  

Overall Rating: 10

Rims: Randall Wyatt Beech Rim

Submitted by BlueRanchRider on 1/24/2012

Where Purchased: Randall Wyatt

Overall Comments

Excellent communication and service. Top notch craftsmanship on rim. No problems whatsoever with service or rim. Fit is perfect, and the sound incredible. Recommended for wood rims (maple, beech, others). Randall is knowledgeable and does great work. I highly recommend Randall turning your next rim and I highly recommend getting a Euro-Beech rim. Sound files on my homepage.

Overall Rating: 10

Washburn: B-14

Submitted by BlueRanchRider on 9/1/2011

Where Purchased: DCMusicStore (online)

Year Purchased: 2010
Price Paid: 600 ($US)

Sound

Scruggs 3 finger style. Shipped direct from factory. Set up was up to me. Used Roger Seminoff's How to Setup Best Sounding Banjo book and this banjo with Snuffy Bridge and the head tightened up pretty good runs ahead of any Deering Goodtime banjo and will run with many higher end banjos. Full bass and crisp highs make it sound great. Would compare it to much more expensive banjos.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

I did the setup and retightened all bolts including co-ordinator rods and bracket nuts and screws. Once put back together had to relieve the neck about one turn, the action needed to be lowered a bit, and tap tuned both the head and resonator chamber. No problems and boy does it sound nice!

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Not much fancy stuff here like others have said but that's not my thing anyway. Very nice looking instrument with wood and chrome.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Cheap bridge needs replacing for sound right away and needs new strings. Otherwise it's built to last.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Lifetime to original owner

Customer Service: not rated

Components

Bell Brass tone ring that gives it the sound. Could use a rim mated to it to replace the stock one. Bridge and strings need replacing. Also, if you want more sound change out the tailpiece for a longer, heavier one.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

For the money, this is the banjo to own. I've played it against other
-1000$ banjos and this one is miles better than them. Compares to Boston and Sierra Deering banjos I've played.

Overall Rating: 10

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