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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!

7048 reviews in the archive.

Inlays: Andy DePaule Inlays

Submitted by ltjgcag on 12/23/2010

Where Purchased:

Overall Comments

I worked with Andy DePaule on some custom inlays for a long term banjo project that I am working on. Outstanding work. I provided an idea and rough sketch and Andy ran with it. Absolutely wonderful work. Andy is a pleasure to deal with.

Overall Rating: 10

Helix: HeliX Midnight Zephyr

Submitted by ltjgcag on 7/31/2010

Where Purchased: Direct from Larry Hill & HeliX

Year Purchased: 2010
Price Paid: I do not disclose prices paid. historic exchange rates / currency converter


I play Scruggs style. Currently using GHS PF-150 phosphour bronze strings and Stewmac compensated bridge. The Black Walnut rim gives a deeper, bassier note. Very crisp. Very powerful. Incredible note sustain. You need to look twice when you realize it is an open back. Just what I was looking for. It reaches out and “grabs” you. Holds you too. Hard driving music is full of energy and melodics are truly unique. Every time I play, it seems to me that the note and sound gets better. I’m really looking forward to the sound a year from now.

Sound Rating: 10


Initial set-up is very close to what I desire. This was arrived at after several conversations and e-mails with HeliX. The customer defines the bridge height wanted, strings desired, and action. Upon receipt, I have made some minor “tweaks” to what I originally thought I wanted! Nothing out of the ordinary – a change of strings to a tad lighter gauge and an ever so slight lowering of the action was all that was needed. I would have been surprised had I not had to ‘tweak’ a bit. The banjo arrived from the low humidity of Arizona to the absurd 90% humidity of a Michigan summer. I believe this definitely had something to do with it. Banjo holds tune very well. Easy as any banjo to work on.

Setup Rating: 10


Wow. That’s the first word that I said when I opened the case on arrival. Beautiful, pretty, work of art – are some of the descriptions I have been told by other banjo players. “Wow” has been the word used most often by others. The black walnut is a wood that just grabs the eye due to its deep coloring. Finish is not overly glossed. The natural beauty of the wood grain is allowed to stand out. The neck finish can be best described by me as a “players neck” if that makes sense. Not overly glossy or dull. Right for me. The neck had a great “feel” to it right out of the case. My hands perspire quite a bit, and I have not had to use any “Fast Fret” or other aids, as I have had to with other high gloss finished necks I’ve owned.
The fret board in-lays are well done and visually pleasing, also adding to the “wow” factor. Larry also gave his own “artistic license” to the peg head and heel inlays. The inlays are truly one of a kind.
Rating – 10 because I can’t give higher!

Appearance Rating: 10


There have been no issues since arrival. The banjo holds tune very well. I believe the compensated Stewmac bridge helps with that. Larry stated right from the start he stands behind his work. When he’s as personally invested in every banjo as he is, I have no doubt on reliability. Top notch hardware used. See Components section.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Larry is “second to none” when it comes service. To me “Customer Service” is just not for problems, but for the overall buying experience. I was “interviewed” when I first made contact about possibly purchasing a HeliX. Be prepared to know what kind of sound you want, what you want to do with your music, where you want to go with your music, how you want it set-up, etcetera. His probing questions are sometimes tough to answer, but Larry wants his customers to be happy. Enjoy the education you will receive. Larry took more time with me for this one banjo than the places I purchased my previous 3 banjos combined. I learned more about building and set-up than I ever thought I would. Enjoy the ride. Acquiring my HeliX and dealing with Larry Hill was an immensely enjoyable experience.
Rating – 10 because I can’t give higher.

Customer Service: 10


Major Components are: HeliX rim made of black walnut, HeliX tone ring, Rickard flange, Black walnut neck, fingerboard from First Quality, Stewmac bridge, Renaissance head, No-knot tailpiece, Gold tone tension hoop, hooks, truss/co-rods. All top notch components used.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

My only issue with my HeliX is that I did not order two! I’ve owned and played from an entry level Iida to Deering Goodtime to an Ome Monarch, and have spent time with an RK80 and Stelling owned by others. Many of these were (and are) very fine instruments. Midnight Zephyr #004 is by far the best banjo I have owned. Shhh – don’t tell Larry, but he could easily charge more! Best “bang for the buck” I believe that you can get. HeliX is not for everyone – I am so glad for that! They are unique and are tailored to the uniqueness of the owner. No two are alike, and that’s part of the charm. I consider it a privilege to own one. One day, I hope to do it the justice that this fine instrument deserves.
Rating – 10 because I can’t give higher.

Overall Rating: 10

elderly Instruments

Submitted by ltjgcag on 7/27/2010

Overall Comments

Elderly Instruments has been wonderful to deal with. Reasonable shipping prices. VERY fast shipping. Orders have always been processed no later than the next day. The one time, I did receive the wrong finger picks I ordered, a quick phone call was all it took, and they had the correct picks sent out. No questions - no hassle!

Overall Rating: 10

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