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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!

7079 reviews in the archive.

Tuners: Cheat-a-keys

Submitted by pastorharry on 9/7/2016

Where Purchased: Kitty Mcintyre

Overall Comments

After inheriting another banjo that already had these tuners added, I had to have a pair for my old Gibson RB-100. 10 minutes to install, 5 more minutes to dial in and they're set. They work, they're cool, I love 'em !! Kitty was great to deal with...just google Cheat-a -Keys and give her a call. Aloha, PH

Overall Rating: 10

Bridges: Tim Purcell custom bridge

Submitted by pastorharry on 10/20/2015

Where Purchased: Maker

Overall Comments

Ordered a bridge from Tim and had it in my hand less than a week later. It's a 9/16 organ wood standard spacing for my '63 RB-100 and is just what the doctor ordered. I especially like the thickness of Tim's bridges as I don't care for thinned out bridges, to me they give a thinned out tone. These bridges have the Mana (power). Aloha, PH

Overall Rating: 10

Pisgah: 12" Walnut Possum

Submitted by pastorharry on 1/10/2015

Where Purchased: Pisgah Banjo Co.

Year Purchased: 2014-15
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

A quintessential old time banjo, wonderful especially for clawhammer and bare finger picking. Full , deep tone but not muddy or plunky but clear and clean. Nice cluck over the scoop but not overly predominate. So far so good.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

I have just recieved the banjo but the bridge position was marked and perfect, only had to place the bridge and tune , intonation very good. Action is a bit higher than I'm used to, but I believe that adds to the growl and power this banjo produces. I may try a .065 bridge instead of the stock 11/16 it came with, but it may just take playing it a few more days.I must remember this is a banjo built especially for clawhammer and not Scruggs style picking.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

The wood quality is excellent. I chose walnut for the neck and pot as it is very light weight and very pretty, cherry rim cap and persimmon fretboard and tonering and peghead overlay. the finish is thin , not gloppy like so many imported banjos, really exudes "hand made".Finish is uniform overall , the wood grain is lovely, and the brass hardware really off sets the walnut well. No flaws, very well made and a great deal of attention to the final fit and setup.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

Hardware appears excellent, it is from Balsam Banjo works, proud to have an all American banjo. Finish is great, maybe will wear off in many years of play only adding to the character of the instrument. If someone hires me for a gig I'll bring it.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

Patrick Heavner was great to deal with, very easy and attentive to every email, even through a busy Christmas season. Banjo was ordered on 11/17/14 and delivered on 1/9/15. Warranty infor is on their website, looks fine.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Standouts are the beautiful woods and American made brass hardware. No cheap parts, I may upgrade the bridge and get a vintage style wire armrest, but that is only personal preference. I would have liked them to supply a bracket wrench for the 5/16 hex nuts, but I guess I can fork out a few more bucks for one.

Components Rating: 8

Overall Comments

Click for Large VersionA very well made and beautiful banjo that has a classy look. The fret work and all wood work is excellent. The Hardware is high end, but the best part is the tone. I usually have to do quite a bit of tinkering to get a banjo to sound the way I like it, this one was simple-set the bridge and play.Iv'e had many, many banjos ,(as most of you know), and this one is as well made as any. I'm especially pleased with how light this banjo came out, Walnut is a nice light wood , similar to Mahogany in tone, and gorgeous to behold. This relatively new company is a breath of fresh air in the banjo world...not copycats, not Click for Large Versionshortcutting, environmentally conscious , and amazingly affordable for an ALL AMERICAN HANDMADE BANJO. Bravo!! The only reason I didn't put all 10's is I believe perfection is a lofty goal that is bandied about too hastily, plus I'm saving the 10's for my next Pisgah banjo...I'm sold! Aloha, PHClick for Large VersionClick for Large Version

Overall Rating: 9

Rickard: Maple Ridge

Submitted by pastorharry on 10/2/2013

Where Purchased: Gryphon

Year Purchased: 2013
Price Paid: 1595.00 historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Banjo has a dry, popping tone, not overly loud.Vey pleasing fingerstyle or clawhammer.Old timey Dobsonesque banjo sounds.

Sound Rating: 8

Setup

Head needed tightening, bridge needed set. Needed a different bridge as the Rickard bridge is not compensated and the 3d string was a bit unruly. Solved with one of Arthur Hatfield's comp bridges.Nut slots needed to be cut deeper, and strings changed from heavies.Much of this is to suit my style of play,but the banjo was hard to play in the first position due to the high nut and heavy guage strings.

Setup Rating: 7

Appearance

Very nicely made, albeit plain jane banjo. Antiqued hardware, 3 piece neck with S-scoop,Dobson tone ring.

Appearance Rating: 8

Reliability

Hardware is nice, finish on the neck feels like it was handrubbed, like a very fine instrument, very comfortable. The antiqueing on the tension hoop is already rubbing off after 3 days of play, as there is no armrest...it's shineing up in that area.

Reliability Rating: 7

Customer Service

There was no info provided for a warranty.

Customer Service: not rated

Components

Standout neck for comfort and feel.excellent fret work.Am bummed that the scoop starts at the 16th fret instead of 17th, but I didn't inspect the pictures well enough, it does limit the upper register a bit though. Tailpiece bolt is too long and jabs you.

Components Rating: 6

Overall Comments

Frankly, I would have sent the banjo back to Gryphon if it wasn't for the tone. Bill Rickard has a good thing going here but needs to make a few minor changes, such as shortening the tailpiece screw so it doesn't stick out way past the bolt, give more attention to proper height of nut slots,scoop from the 17th fret instead of 16th, and start making armrests available to match his instruments.Besides all this, it is a fine banjo, and has that good Dobson pop to it. With a few changes it will be a serviceable banjo. Tom Culberson at Gryphon compared this banjo to a Romero to me over the phone....sorry Tom, not even close, but not bad for the money. I'm glad I could buy one of Mr. Rickard's banjos, but I probably won't buy another.

Overall Rating: 7

Heads: Hide Heads by John Balch

Submitted by pastorharry on 12/12/2012

Where Purchased: Direct from John Balch

Overall Comments

Strongest hide heads I've ever gotten. very well mounted and balanced, professionally packed and shipped. John is a pleasure to work with , knows banjos inside and out, and what makes them tic the best. Both my banjos ,(Bart Reiter Regent, Recording King RK-R25),now have these heads and the tone is much improved, and they look cool as can be! Highly recommended!!

Overall Rating: 10

Sullivan: Deluxe

Submitted by pastorharry on 8/1/2007

Where Purchased: banjo.com

Year Purchased: 2007
Price Paid: 1695.00 ($US)

Sound

Great BG banjo, loud, bright, with alot of snap. Good range of tone in the different right hand positions.Sounds as good as any Mastertone,etc. I've ever heard!

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

Barry at banjo.com set the banjo up on the spot for me, and installed spikes. We tweaked the tension and tailpiece just a bit to give it a little more versatility for when I switch to drop thumb.Head is tuned at about G flat, tension is at 88.

Setup Rating: 8

Appearance

Bill Sullivan does exceptional work. This banjo is simple, but elegant. Curly Maple neck and Cox curly maple resonator with tortise binding. Rosewood fretboard with style 1 type inlays. Inlay and all other workmanship-flawless.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Hardware is exceptional, Finish is flawless.Sullivan tonering, new double hump tailpiece,beautiful pancake tuners-very precise with ivoroid buttons. A lifetime banjo-no backup required.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

Limited lifetime warranty. FQMS are always great to buy from, but I have not needed to do anything to this banjo, except play it.

Customer Service: 9

Components

Standouts-tuners, tone ring, tailpiece,old factory floor bridge,.
No cheap parts ,no upgrades needed.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

Buy one-love it, I do! It's all the banjo I'll ever need for BG. Incredible value, easily worth twice what they sell for...how do they do it?? Gibson, look out........
 

Overall Rating: 9

Bart Reiter: Galax

Submitted by pastorharry on 6/16/2006

Where Purchased: Gryphon music

Year Purchased: 2006
Price Paid: 1,170 ($US)

Sound

Great -"one does it all",all around openback banjo. Very loud, crisp and clear-plenty of variation in tone as you change right hand positions and move toward the neck or bridge.Sounds good any style played-3 finger,2 finger or frailed. Played hard or soft-it is an awesome sounding instrument.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

Setup was excellent-head adjustment and bridge placement ,tailpiece heigth all right on.Action low with standard 5/8 bridge no buzz but dangerously close on a couple frets. I immediatly put on a 5/8 heavy moon bridge (personal preference), and will add a vega repro armrest-might replace the 5 star head with a renissance,however this head sounds surprisingly good and well rounded for this banjo. Stock strings seem a little light for my personal tastes, which i will change to Ome mediums.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

Beautiful, albeit plain banjo.Excellent star and dot inlay-no filler visable at all,nice color contrasts in the MOP.Mahogany neck and rim-painted black rim cap with tortise inside rim-coffee colored stain-perfectly done-no blotches-no sanding marks visable. Awesome job! Hardware heavy-top quality,new planet tuners-work perfectly.Perfect fret job on ebony fretboard, all workmanship A+

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Hardware-solid! Finish is satin stain-thin, which I prefer over thick-asian type finishes.May wear in time,no big deal to me. This is my only steel string banjo which I will use for everything,seems very trustworthy.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Gryphon Music came highly recommended by none other than our own Bill Rogers, and they lived up to the rep in every way. I have to order banjos sight unseen living in Hawaii, and Tom at gryphon A/B'd two banjos for me over the phone, took time to answer all questions-very courtiously. They installed spikes for free and did a great job (Frank Ford ,HELLO??!!!) One year warrenty-Bart is well known for being very helpful if there's a problem or question. The banjo was ordered on tues. afternoon and arrived on thursday morning!!!

Customer Service: 10

Components

Planet tuners-heavy duty notched rim,waverly tailpiece, nickle silverd frets, whyte laydie tonering. All parts excellent-would only upgrade bridge and include hotdog armrest.It would also be nice if Bart gave a choice of heads-although the 5 star is just fine.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

Highly recommended-after 30 banjos in 45 years. I might keep this one around. I LOVE it!!I especially love the neck-very similar to Wyatt Fawley's vega style necks,not quite as much V,a little softer, but very comfortable. Whyte Laydie tone rings rule!! BTW; what kind of a NUT would steal a banjo??

Overall Rating: 10

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