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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!

6773 reviews in the archive.

Prust: Boucher

Submitted by Pennsyltucky on 2/11/2013

Where Purchased: Prust website

Year Purchased: 2012
Price Paid: 311 ($US)

Sound

I'm using the nylgut strings, and for old-time clawhammer there is not a more authentic historic sound. Mellow and plunky,

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

includes 3 bridges of varying height. Changes in the weather affect the tackhead and on rainy days you'll need to raise the action with a higher bridge. Great that he includes these. I usually use the lowest and the action is fine, only when its really humid do i need to switch to a higher bridge. It makes the action slightly higher, but it's what you gotta do to keep things from buzzing. simply the way it has to be for a tack-head banjo.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Paid 30 extra bucks for figured maple, got an excellent piece of wood that looks amazing in the sunlight.

My only complaint is that the neck itself was not finished entirely to my liking. The clear lacquer had not been finish sanded, still had orange-peel to it and you could feel the texture, was kinda 'sticky' since it was so glossed . I did some extra fine wet-sanding with 1000 grit to smooth that out and its fine now.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

I really can't imagine what would even break on this banjo, it's so simple. Short of actually falling on it or slamming it in a car door or something nothing on it is going to break of it's own accord.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Great service, you tell him what you want, he makes it and sends you pictures. you say "OK looks great!", he ships it, if you like it, you mail him money. This guy really doesn't want to take your money unless you are completely happy with the instrument.

Customer Service: 10

Components

I got the violin style tuners because I was going for a historically authentic banjo. In retrospect - modern tuners are a great invention, and I would probably spring for them if I could do it again. The violin tuners are fine and do function well, but it does make tuning a bit more of a process. I've found that the banjo likes to be tuned down by a step, and that makes it much easier to tune.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

great banjo. well worth the money to have around the house. I would only caution people that these are kinda a novelty banjo and not something you will probably want to learn on. It's fun to play, but it's a whole different animal from any 'regular' banjo you'd buy, fretless or not.

Overall Rating: 10

Ome: Minstrel

Submitted by Pennsyltucky on 2/11/2013

Where Purchased: Acoustic Music Works (acousticmusicworks.com)

Year Purchased: 2013
Price Paid: 1926.00 ($US)

Sound

Open, woody, and acoustic. I know these seem self-evident for any open-back banjo, but compared with other models I played of similar constructions from other builders, this banjo, with it's 12 inch pot and less brackets than other banjos it had the most naturally woody tone. Sounds very 'acoustic' if that makes sense. Doesn't have the brash or brightness that I heard in some other banjos - no metallic sound to it - just lots of wood tones. The bass response on the D and G strings is very strong, and produces a very nice plunk. The high strings have a nice bell-tonality to them, and are not shrill or bright yet come through quite nice in a recording mix or band setting.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

My local shop sets things up before they go on display, so everything was perfect.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Beautiful banjo. The gun-metal is especially nice and adds a great old-time quality. I really like the way the brackets or j-rods look as well. Mine does not have the star inlay in the neck scoop that some have, and I like that. It's a very simplistic and understated banjo.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Hardware is great, see components section below. The natural tung-oil finish is classy and well done, definitely won't have any finish problems. Is definitely a gig-worthy banjo. It's solid construction and minimal parts mean minimal things that can go wrong. The bridge is super convenient to change strings in a hurry on stage with. I've been playing it every day for about 2 weeks and haven't had to do anything to it, it tunes super easily and stays in tune day-to-day exactly where you left it.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I live nearby to Acoustic Music Works so went there, though they also sell online or by phone. They helped me to identify the exact construction I wanted (tone-ring vs. none tone-ring, materials, etc) and we arrived at this OME minstrel as the banjo for me. They were super helpful and great to work with.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Comparing to other banjos it seems the hardware here is a little nicer, not just your stock screws, brackets, etc that look like they could be bought at the hardware store. Everything is the slightly stylized gun-metal finished stuff and is a bit bulkier than other brands I checked out. Tuners are solid and smooth - I did have to tighten them a bit but that's a normal thing and they're great now.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I also played a Reiter, a Ramsey, and a Wildwood in the same price range. Some with white ladie tone rings, a wooden tone-ring, or no tone-ring. Compared with these, I felt this banjo had the most punch to it and nicest tone. Compared to a tone-ring banjo, it lacks all brashness and metallic overtones. Compared to similar wood-rim banjos, this guy packs a punch and clarity that was much more full than others, which tended to sound a bit quiet and lack the umph of this guy. A very well rounded tone here that I couldn't find in other brands which all either sounded thin on the high end, or empty on the bottom.

It's also the same banjo as the OME Tupelo but with the scrolled headstock, so this review applies to the Tupelo as well. I played one while shopping this one out and they sound identical.

Overall Rating: 10

Mutes: Mike's Banjo Mute

Submitted by Pennsyltucky on 3/18/2011

Where Purchased: mikesbanjomute.com

Overall Comments

First, after purchasing the mute, I got a confirmation email from Mike himself with a shipping time-frame. It arrived in under a week from UT to PA. I would imagine if there was any issue with the mute i could have easily responded back directly to Mike and he would sort things out, seems like a very nice guy.

The mute itself is built well, very solid construction. Installs very quickly, pops on and barely needs tightened down to function, so don't worry about harming your bridge.

The sound of the banjo with the mute on, I think, sounds most like an unplugged, hollow-body guitar. Think Gretch or 335 unplugged, the volume is about the same as well. Basically just eliminates the metallic sounds of the banjo leaving a nice 'unplugged electric guitar' type sound.

The strings and banjo still resonate very naturally. Strings are not muted to the point where their sustain is truncated or staccato. Both scruggs style and clawhammer sound natural and notes respond as they should and ring out as they should, just quieter!

Overall, I think this is the mute of mutes. It makes more sense to me than the GoldTone mute which braces the bridge beneath the strings. This mute replicates the effect of palm muting on a guitar, but maintains sustain, which is perfect. Its built like a tank, installs and stays in place, doesn't interfere with your playing whatsoever, and functions perfectly bringing volume down significantly. Also, the tone itself is enjoyable and actually neat, i could see using it in a recording setting for some very mellow banjo sounds.

Great product, great buy experience, great functionality, ingenious piece of gear.

Overall Rating: 10

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