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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!

6990 reviews in the archive.

Clifford Essex: New Weaver

Submitted by Mike Moss on 3/23/2013

Where Purchased: Clifford Essex online store

Year Purchased: 2013
Price Paid: £GBP (950) historic exchange rates / currency converter


The new Clifford Essex company is devoted to banjo players of all styles, but especially so for the neglected and often misunderstood Classic Banjo market. With a great player and veteran of era, Alan Middleton, on board, CE knows what a good Classic banjo should sound like -- and does it sound good!

The sound was just what I was looking for. It has a sharp, loud, nasal attack, with clear trebles and a round bass. When you play this banjo you hear the tone the great Joe Morley had stamped on wax cylinders a hundred years ago. It is, in short, a true, authentic Classic banjo sound on a modern banjo.

Sound Rating: 10


The banjo was perfectly set up when I got it, as you would expect from a luthier-made instrument. The action was perfect and the banjo was ready to play as soon as I had put the bridge up. As a bonus, two excellent quality bridges were provided with the banjo -- a "Morley" bridge and a "Cammeyer" bridge.

Setup Rating: 10


Alfred Weaver's original banjos were not noted for their flashy looks, and this modern replica follows the original maker's taste for simple, dot inlays. A modern concession to aesthetics has been made in the form of small, understated but very well made inlays on the peghead, as well as the traditional Clifford Essex shield which Weaver also inlaid on his. Unlike on the original Weavers, however, the shield (and all the other inlays) are Mother of Pearl rather than German silver. The MoP is authentic and very easy on the eyes.

The block-built rim is simple, but pretty to look at. It lacks any fancy purflings, veneers or inlays, but any superfluous decoration would have run contrary to the "Weaver philosophy".

Likewise, the neck is an exact replica of the neck on a 1915 Weaver-made banjo, and it is carved out of one solid piece of mahogany. It has the characteristic Weaver spoon heel and is very pretty in its simple, understated way. The fingerboard and peghead overlay are ebony, as is the tailpiece. The tailpiece is a new design, a cross between the original Weaver floating tailpieces and modern fixed tailpieces, being a wooden tailpiece attached to the perch pole with a bolt.

The banjo has a perch pole (dowel stick) construction, but it also includes a hidden lag bolt right behind the perch pole for added strength. Since the perch pole is in front of it, the lag bolt cannot be seen and the banjo maintains a beautiful traditional look.

Appearance Rating: 10


Although the banjo does not have a truss rod (it does not need it, being a nylon-strung banjo) the neck contains an aluminium rod to strengthen it and prevent warping. The design is very clever and I have found that the banjo is perfectly balanced even with this strengthening. The perch pole construction is complemented with a hidden lag bolt connecting the heel to the rim, so the heel and the rim are joined very securely.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I have relied on the Clifford Essex company almost exclusively for the past two years or so after having dealt with a number of other banjo stores in the UK. Not only do they offer excellent prices, products and service, the people in the company are very friendly and they have often sent me free items, literature and sheet music spontaneously. It's hard to find such excellent service nowadays.

Customer Service: 10


From what I've seen, the parts are all top notch and perfectly suited to the banjo. Some of them are made by Clifford Essex themselves (the traditional perch pole attachment system, the ebony tailpiece, the bridges) and others are high-quality imports (the hooks, shoes and nuts; the planetary tuners). The tuners are high-quality and are the smoothest I've ever used on a banjo.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

You just can't find such an outstanding banjo for this price in this day and age. There are simply no high-quality banjos for Classic style in this price range other than the Weaver, let alone banjos for other styles, that can match this price-quality ratio. I would expect to have to pay up to twice as much for a banjo made entirely by hand, to such a high standard and by such a fine luthier as Garry Silbert. If you're into bling and mother-of-toilet seat inlays, this is not the banjo for you. If you want unmatched tone, playability, balance and finish, you can't do better than the new Weaver.

Overall Rating: 10

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