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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!

7185 reviews in the archive.

Iida: Iida 236

Submitted by IidaFajida on 3/5/2005

Where Purchased: Richie Dotson, Luthier

Year Purchased: 2005
Price Paid: 550.00 ($US) (bought USED)


It has a wonderful bassy sound, bright but not too bright. Overall very balanced, it does everything I ask it to do, up and down the neck. Compared to a High end Banjo, its probably a 7 or 8. For the money, its a 10.

Sound Rating: 8


The banjo came set up from Richie Dotson in Newport News, VA. He put one of his handmade bridges on it and a new head and strings. I havent had to change a thing. I dont want to. Id be afraid of losing what I have.

Setup Rating: 10


I read a review on this banjo where they said that overall it was a bit "odd". Maybe it is if you are expecting floral inlays, but to me its perfect. This banjo has a Winged Chevron pattern ascending up the neck. The unique thing to me is that instead of mother of pearl or abalone the inlay is Maple set into the Rosewood fingerboard. The inlay on the peghead is more traditional but still maple. Very simple but very unique. The flamed maple back is very transparent and beautiful.

Appearance Rating: 10


This banjo is 27 years old (1978) and all original accept for the head, bridge and strings. The hardware is flawless. I cant believe the condition of this banjo for the age. It is heavy and built like a Tank. I wouldnt carry a backup unless someone else wanted to pay for it. For my money this is it.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Richie Dotson ( is a class act. He let me know about this banjo before he listed it, which he didnt have to do, and to me the decision was obvious. You could spend years looking for this banjo and not find it, Richie gave me first crack at it and Im grateful. He answered all of my questions and there were alot of them.

Customer Service: 10


Brass Tone Ring, Planetary tuners, two piece flange. I wouldnt change a thing on this banjo. I read where the Iida family studied the old "Pre-War" banjo's as a model and I believe it. This banjo is almost as old as I am and it looks like it just stepped off the showroom floor. Amazing.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I would recommend this banjo to anyone wrestling with the question of the best banjo in the $500 range. It was $550 with the case and with shipping. I truly think I would have to spend $1500 or more to get what I already have in this banjo. If it was stolen, I would gather a posse and search the ends of the earth to find the thievin' varmint who took it. These banjo's are not easy to find, especially in this condition, but its worth the effort to track one down. I looked at Gold Tone, Morgan Monroe and Deering all in this price range and this banjo makes all of them look like beginner banjo's. I dont know what Iida is doing now, but in the 1970's they were making some very fine instruments.

Overall Rating: 10

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