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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!

7066 reviews in the archive.

Nechville: Midnight Phantom

Submitted by Bill H on 12/27/2020

Where Purchased: The Banjo Warehouse

Year Purchased: 2020
Price Paid: $3250 ($US) (bought USED)

Sound

I am a claw hammer player in the process of learning Scruggs style. This is my first banjo with a 20 hole bluegrass style tone ring. This banjo has volume to spare and the clearest, cleanest tone I have ever heard. Even my wife commented on the clarity. It sounds great played claw hammer style as well--incredibly articulate. Each note is so clean and clear. Since Covid I have not had the chance to play it in a group setting and can't wait to bring it to a jam. The adjustments on this banjo make it incredibly easy to tweak head tension, tailpiece or action to dial in just the tone to just what I want (which of course is subject to change at any time).

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The setup was near perfect when it arrived (actually in tune). I did have an issue with the fifth string slipping off 7th fret spike. When I contacted The Banjo Warehouse Joe offered to take it back to make the adjustment, but I couldn't bear to part with my new banjo, so I fixed it myself. One good tap with feeler gauge under the head so I didn't overdrive the spike and the problem was solved.

I took some time to acclimate myself to the Midnight Phantom before I made any changes. Nechville has reinvented the banjo, so it was not anything like my vintage Vega and Fairbanks banjos. The banjo came with medium strings and a top frosted head. After a few weeks I swapped the strings for light gauge, my usual
preference, and then swapped the frosted head for a Renaissance head. I also lowered the action a bit using the Allen adjustment screw in the heel of the neck. The Heli-mount system makes head adjustments and replacement super easy. I experimented a bit with head tension until I found the sound I liked, and when I checked it with a drum dial, it read 90. Because of the unique head tensioning system Nechville uses, the tension was dead even at every single spot I checked. I have to believe that has something to do with the extreme clarity of each and every note. There is no trace of an overtone ever, like with my 1924 Tubaphone or my Martin Vega VIP.

I couldn't be happier with the results of my tweaks to the setup. I feel the banjo now has the versatility for claw hammer, and a deeper, more mellow tone when played with picks. I love that I can swap out heads and adjust head tension with the strings in place at full tension. The one other tweak I did was to adjust the truss rod to put a bit of relief in the neck. The neck was dead straight when I received the banjo. Tom Nechville has a video for every aspect of banjo adjustment and care, so I used his guidance as I went. The truss rod was super responsive compared to any other one I have adjusted. Just a fraction of a turn and the neck relief was perfect.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

I fell in love with the minimalist, contemporary look of the Midnight Phantom the minute I saw it listed in the Hangout Classifieds being offered by The Banjo Warehouse. It was technically a used banjo, but evidently only a few months old. It looked brand new when it arrived.

The Midnight Phantom has a 3-ply maple rim, stunning curly maple neck and resonator stained dark brown. The fretboard is radiused ebony with small off-center dots. While the neck looks bound because the fret ends don't show, it is not. The frets rest in dead-end slots--the look supports the clean minimalist style of the Phantom as does the sleek guitar-style head stock and tunneled fifth string.

Then there is the Heli-mount frame, clean, smooth top edge with no hooks sticking up, and a matte black finish that completes the ultra contemporary Midnight Phantom look.

Tom Nechville has completely reimagined the banjo--I don't know why it took me so long to notice.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

From the outside in, this banjo is well designed, sturdy and solid. The finish and every aspect of the instrument is flawless.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Service from The banjo Warehouse was outstanding. I have had no reason to contact Nechville for any issues involving this banjo. With the lifetime warranty and Nechville' s reputation I am confident that customer service will be available if ever needed.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Standard with the Midnight Phantom is a tunneled fifth string, beautiful finish, compound radius fretboard, curly maple neck and resonator, 20-hole bronze alloy tone ring, and 3-ply maple rim. There is no compromise of quality with any aspect of this banjo.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I find the Midnight Phantom by Nechville an exciting and fun banjo to own and play. In fact, I love my Midnight Phantom so much that I ordered a custom mahogany Moonshine open back with the Nechville hybrid tone ring. Due to arrive in early spring. Can't wait.

Overall Rating: 10

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