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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!

6854 reviews in the archive.

Vega: Tubaphone Style M

Submitted by uncledelphi on 11/22/2006

Where Purchased: Vinnie Mondello

Year Purchased: 2004
Price Paid: Traded another banjo ($US) (bought USED)

Sound

This tenor banjo is great for Irish music. The sound is full and bassy, with the characteristic Tubaphone twang and a bit of tubbiness.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

This pot's original neck was a lost cause, so my trade with Vinnie was just for the pot. Mike Ramsey gave me a Mahogany Style M neck that a customer had abandoned after a conversion (sigh). I tried several heads, finally settling on a new calfskin that I mounted myself. I currently have it set up with a vintage No-Knot tailpiece, new Grover bridge, and custom gauge strings.

Setup Rating: not rated

Appearance

This banjo is absolutely beautiful and looks all original (until you start looking at serial numbers). The original Vega inlays are immaculate. The pot hardware is in great shape, with a miniscule amount of pitting and plating wear. The new off-white calfskin head looks nice and old.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

The hardware has held up great for 80 years, and I'm sure it will be around for ages to come. The original Vega finish has held up very well on the neck, but will eventually require an overspray. This is my primary tenor for Celtic gigs, and I have every confidence in it.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Since the original Vega Company is long out of business, and I AM Mike Ramsey's customer service rep, I can't rightly rate customer service.

Customer Service: not rated

Components

Standout components are the Tubaphone tonering and the bracket band. They give this pot a perfect tone for Irish music. My only complaint is the 5-Star tuners on the neck. They stick pretty bad. Yuck.

Components Rating: 8

Overall Comments

I highly recommend Vega Tubaphone tenors for Irish banjo players. I really do love this banjo, especially the wide range of setup options that it gives me. If it were stolen, I'd do my best to scrounge another one.

Overall Rating: 10

Vega: Tubaphone #3

Submitted by uncledelphi on 11/22/2006

Where Purchased: Mandolin Brothers

Year Purchased: 2003
Price Paid: Too Much ($US) (bought USED)

Sound

This banjo sounds absolutely wonderful. It came with an older, thicker Fiberskyn head that sounds great when cranked down tight. I use a No-Knot tailpiece, Ramsey bridge, medium gauge strings with a phosphor-bronze fourth, and an old Vega close-fitting resonator. Its tone is bright and twangy, but not at all tubby. It is set up to sound like the Tubaphones that Dave Guard played in the Kingston Trio.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

It was a plectrum when I bought it, and was just barely setup. Mike Ramsey installed a replica 5-string neck. I did the final setup myself.

Setup Rating: 5

Appearance

The repro neck is absolutely beautiful, made from wonderful flamed maple with a nearly perfect finish. The pot, nearly 80 years old at the time of purchase, is another story. The finish on the outside is faded, and the metal parts have signifigant pitting and plating wear.

Appearance Rating: 8

Reliability

The hardware has lasted for 80 years, and I'm sure it has another century left in it. The finish on the neck is superb, so no worries there. This is my primary workhorse banjo for olde tyme, and I routinely gig with it without a backup.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

The Vega Company that made this banjo is long out of business. As far as Mike Ramsey is concerned, well, I AM the customer service representative, so I can't rightly rate it!

Customer Service: not rated

Components

The standout components of the pot are the Tubaphone tone ring and the bracket band flange. These make an excellent pot. The replica neck has 5-Star tuners. I am not happy with those; they do not turn very smoothly.

Components Rating: 8

Overall Comments

I routinely recommend these old Vega pots. I firmly believe that they offer the best tone for the money in the olde tyme world.

Overall Rating: 10

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