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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!

7124 reviews in the archive.

Gibson: Earl Scruggs Standard

Submitted by SBPARK on 11/18/2019

Where Purchased: Private seller

Year Purchased: 2019
Price Paid: 2500 ($US) (bought USED)


Sound is as expected from a Gibson. Very dynamic. Big, full, rich sound and has a nice percussive rhythm when vamping up the neck, and nice, bright and loud when played closer to the bridge, but never harsh. I have another banjo, a Recording King RK-36, which is an amazing banjo but the ESS just seems to have more of everything. What really surprised me about the ESS is how clear it sounds when played high up the neck. Aside from a few RK's I've never played any other banjos and I'm relatively inexperienced, but I really think this banjo sounds great.

Sound Rating: 9


I bought this banjo from the original owner who purchased it new in 2000 and apparently didn't play it much. No idea if they ever had it set-up, or what was done to it. I cleaned it up, changed the head and did a basic set-up on it and had a local luthier install spikes. DIdn't need anything else.

Setup Rating: 9


It's a beautiful banjo. Looks incredible without going over the top. Beautiful inlays and the flame maple resonator and neck are really, really nice on this banjo.

Appearance Rating: 10


This banjo has survived close to 20 years so far and everything on it is original and fully functional, so I'd say it's very dependable.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Not the original owner, and no need to deal with Gibson Customer Service, so can't really comment on this section, so I gave it a rating of 5, which is neutral.

Customer Service: 5


Tuners (Waverly's?) are super smooth, Presto tailpiece works as expected, Kulesh tone ring, and all other hardware is quality.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

Can't really say enough about this banjo. It's beautiful to look at and it's wonderful to play. Didn't need, and wasn't in the market for, or even deserve a second banjo at this point of my banjo playing journey, but when it crossed my path I figured I probably wouldn't get a chance to won such a great instrument in this condition at this price. It inspires me to play it and I look forward to it every day.

Overall Rating: 9

Straps: Huber Banjo strap

Submitted by SBPARK on 11/17/2019

Where Purchased:

Overall Comments

Super simple and incredibly comfortable strap. Was a bit worried that it wouldn't be comfortable because it's only 1 1/4" wide, but I can honestly say I prefer this strap over my 2" Lakota Leathers strap. Heck, I prefer it over any other banjo strap I've owned/tried, which surprised me. The Huber strap also has no Chicago screws to come loose or scratch up your instrument.  Doesn't get any easier or simpler.  

Overall Rating: 9

Bridges: Kateyz McCormick "Spice"

Submitted by SBPARK on 3/11/2012

Where Purchased: Custom order

Overall Comments

I am new to playing the banjo, and come from the guitar world, so my knowledge of the banjo and experience is limited, so take my review with a grain of salt, but hopefully someone can get something from my review.


I custom ordered a bridge from Mike for a recently acquired Recording King RK-87. It's a beautiful banjo, but sounded a tad tinny and thin to me, although the banjo had a ton of sustain. The only other banjo I rally had to compare it to that I had actually played were an RK-35 (that sounded 'angrier' to me if that makes sense, and fatter) and my buddy's Goodtime 2. I told mike that it would be nice to have the banjo sound a little bigger, fatter, rounder (although I know since the banjo is maple, it will be a bit more bright, perhaps harsh than mahogany.)

Mike suggested the McCormick spice bridge, ebony top, and I wanted to go with an 11/16 over the stock 5/8 and went with the pegged top. Mike decided a slightly heavier bridge weight of 2.2 oz.

While I was waiting for Mike's bridge I also tried a Style II Snuffy Smith 11/16 bridge, and although it made the banjo even louder, it now had these sort of harsh overtones that would ring out for a while. When I received Mike's bridge I immediately noticed a difference (and yeah, it was THAT noticeable, which surprised me.) I may lost a SMALL amount of volume, and I mean small amount, but much clearer, cleaner tone, not harsh at all, more balanced and no harsh overtones. Just more solid all around and much more pleasing to (my) ear.

Mike told me to try out the bridge for a week or so before committing to it, but I can honestly say I am sold already after a day of playing. He is a very pleasant and nice person to deal with, has great customer service, and just seems like an all-around good person who I would not hesitate to do business with again in the future. Although, as we already know, there is no one magical bridge that works on every banjo, but if you are looking for a bridge and still trying to dial in your tone, you should definitely give a Kat Eyz a try.

Overall Rating: 10

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