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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!

6919 reviews in the archive.

Huss and Dalton: Singletree

Submitted by BConk on 7/13/2005

Where Purchased: second hand

Year Purchased: 2005
Price Paid: Don't Remember (bought USED) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Nice, rich tone - woody, mellow, plunky but bright enough played mid-head, other-worldly played over the frailing scoop - very nice. Not much on sustain but that's OK for clawhammer. Decent volume - great bottom. Nice muted 5th string - Altogether a very nice sound for clawhammer. Great sound for fast double thumb playing with good decay and note separation. Update - the head's settled in and this banjo is really sounding SWEET. Nice banjo indeed, I'm uprgrading the sound rating.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

the banjo needed work when I got it - the head was blown though it was hard to tell by looking at it. You could hear it though - sounded like it had a mute on the bridge. The relief on the neck was also too pronounced. A new Elite 12" high crown head and an adjustment on the truss rod, along with a nice set of medium Ome strings with the chenille ends to curb overtones. I tried two different Moon bridges on it and settled with a 1/2 H. I could have tweaked the action a tad to get less than 1/8" @ the 12th with a 5/8" bridge - but it sounded better with the 1/2" bridge. Now it plays like a dream and sounds great. With the bridge just south of center on the head - there's a lot of string between the bridge and the No-Knot tailpiece and the chenille wraps on the Ome strings really damp the ringing the strings would make otherwise.
I'll rate it high 'coz I set it up myself ;)

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

It is a very plain banjo but it looks great in its own way. A very unique peghead shape overlaid with ebony and with an inlay of MOP in the shape of a tree I guess - sorta kinda - looks good though. No position inlays on the fretboard surface but dot MOP indicators along the side. Scooped neck - 24 hooks, rim, heel and bottom side of dowel stick capped in beautiful rosewood. very nice workmanship. A mahogany neck that looks, plays and feels great. Maple pot with decent color matching between the pot and neck. Creamy bone nuts, cream knobs on the 5 star planer tuners. GREAT fit and finish. With the money saved on inlays, I'd have liked something more than a paper tag glued to the dowel stick with the maker's name - maybe a plate?
Rating it is hard - I tend to like more decoration on banjos - but for what it is it's beautiful - a very distinctive banjo

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

Hooks/nuts/shoes - pretty much standard good quality stuff. One shoe wouldn't stay on so I had to add a longer stainless steel screw - perhaps screws just a tad longer would be better but they'd be a non-standard length so it's either a thinner rim or longer screws with washers....don't know if they've changed the setup - I see the new ones have Vega style closed end nuts - perhaps the screws/shoes are different too. Good quality Vega style dowel bracket and end ferrule - very rich looking there against the dark rosewood overlay on the dowel.
5 Star Planet tuners - As indicated above the finish is beautiful and applied with care. It is a well-made banjo

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

I called Huss & Dalton once or twice to get info and they were very helpful.

Customer Service: 9

Components

the neck and rim really stand out on this banjo - well made and very well fitted and finished. I ike the 25.5" scale. I don't like the tension hoop though, it is grooved with a rather sharp outer wall that really digs into my arm - I ordered an armrest - wire style, like the old Vegas - from Goose Acres. Until it comes, I'll lay a folded bandana on the rim edge.
Update - the wire style, adjustable-height armrest is now on my H&D and I'm very pleased with it and the difference it makes in the comfort and tone. Now I can muffle the head if I want, or pivot my arm up a fraction of and inch and let the head ring - These should be standard equipment on this banjo IMO.

Components Rating: 8

Overall Comments

Would I recommend this banjo? For the price I paid it's a no-brainer:Yes.
This is a nice banjo! Full manufacturer's list? No - I wouldn't pay the price. Few retailers ask the list though.
But I do like it and I think I'll actually grow to love it if I keep playing it as much as I do now. Update - this banjo is really growing on me, I really love playing it now, it seems to be a real keeper.

Overall Rating: 9

Ome: Gold Sweetgrass Professional Open Back

Submitted by BConk on 7/1/2005

Where Purchased: Banjo Hangout swap shop

Year Purchased: 2005
Price Paid: Don't Remember (bought USED) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

The sound is amazing and very versatile. Played fast and up over the frailing scoop it's sweet and plunky with beautiful balance. Played slowly down over the head near the neck interface it's heart breakingly beautiful with a voice that's hard for me to describe - the thought that keeps coming to mind is that it's very warm and human. I close my eyes to hear it - it's that nice.
Played further down the head it's like a different banjo again - crisper and brighter. But throughout the balance is exceptional and the notes are true and sweet wherever you fret. It's truly amazing.
It's also an incredibly responsive banjo - not overly long on sustain but the lightest touch brings out a beautiful vibrato effect. I find I have to work on developing a lighter more delicate touch for slides ...hammer ons etc.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

I bought it second hand from the original owner who had it for less than a year before he sold it to me. He played it very little - less than an hour was how he described it. The setup is excellent - it's a pleasure to play and I can't imagine the banjo sounding better than it does now.
I'm a little concerned about the Renaissance head on it as it's quite cloes to bottoming out in the neck slot so there's little room for it to stretch more. As it is now, it seems perfect - I just hope it doesn't stretch more or I'll have to replace it.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

This banjo is sublime. It has a medium brown stained maple neck made of exceptionally fine figured maple and with a rich, glossy finish that shows depth in the figure of the wood. The neck and rim are trimmed with grained ivoroid binding and purfling. The neck also sports a thin line of ebony below the ivoroid binding. The fretboard is a fine piece of ebony as is the "Victorian" headstock overlay. The inlays are exquisite - wildly figured abalone and mother of pearl in a very artistic and fluid motif of swirls and diamonds. The craftsmen took the time to select each piece of shell to maximize the grain for each shape - the effect is stunning. I love to play up the neck just to see the inlays around the 12th fret.
Even the uncapped rim is beautiful as each of the mutiple laminates of maple veneer display the medullary rays so that the effect is like a speckled surface, it's gorgeous and the extra care it took to cut each laminate just so is amazing.
To top it all off, all the hardware is plated in a rich gold - with the Renaissance head, and the grained ivoroid tuner knobs and binding this banjo is a real beauty

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

I can't see where any expense was spared in providing the best quality components available - I can't help but think that this is about as good as it gets.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I have not had any dealings with the company but, from what I understand, their service as legendary - like their banjos.

Customer Service: not rated

Components

The Silver Bell tone ring - the tension hoop, the hooks,the shoes the closed end nuts, the coordinator rods the tuners - all top of the line. Those fat frets are a dream to play on!! Slides up the neck actually tickle.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

It looks beautiiful, it sounds beautiful, it plays beautifully...it actually feels good playing it and the lightest touch is needed to produce beautiful sounds
Yeah- I love it
This banjo is the benchmark by which I will compare all others for a long time to come - maybe forever.

Overall Rating: 10

Bart Reiter: Standard

Submitted by BConk on 7/1/2005

Where Purchased: Ebay

Year Purchased: 2005
Price Paid: Don't Remember (bought USED) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

I like the sound of this banjo. It's rich and full and well balanced with good brights and decent bottom and it has good volume and decent sustain. It's a good sound for clawhammer as it is, in my opinion, but if I wanted it plunkier I'd swap out the frosted top head that it came set up with and replace it with a Fiberskyn or, more likely a Renaissance head.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

The banjo came second hand to me but it was purchased by the original owner only a couple of months prior to me buying it. The original owner bought it from Elderly where they set it up very nicely and swapped the stock fiberskyn head for the frosted top it wears now. The action is very nice at a hair or two under 1/8" @ the 12th fret.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

It's a rather plainly decorated banjo but looks nice just the same. A simple MOP star on the thick ebony overlay - single dots at 3, 5, 10 and 17 and double dots at 7, 12 and 22 adorn a nice ebony fretboard that is without binding.
The mahogany neck is stunning - the very rich satin finish is flawless, the heel cap of ebony sits on top of a contrasting veneer of maple then another of ebony. The neck is the best part of this banjo - easily worth most of the price I paid for the banjo (I got a good deal)
The two ply maple rim is also very nicely made with a simple black opaque stain finish on the edge. I'd probably find a rounded profile rim cap a little more comfortable against my belly.
The only complaint I have about the appearance is that the maple rim and the mahogany neck do not appear to match well - not in terms of fit, which is flawless, but in terms of color.

Appearance Rating: 8

Reliability

This is a very well made banjo with quality hardware. The craftsmanship is superb. It looks like it will be around making music longer than I will be.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

N/A although the Ebay seller was great.

Customer Service: not rated

Components

Again - the neck is amazing....I very high quality piece of work with an incredibly smooth and rich finish. The rim is also good quality and the parts are fitted with exacting precision, but they don't look that great together (neck and pot)

Components Rating: not rated

Overall Comments

For the prices I see them selling for - I think the banjo is a bargain. It is low enough in price to be a higher end beginner's banjo and it is a perfect intermediate banjo that offers a level of playability and quality that I suspect many professionals would find pleasing as well.

Overall Rating: 9

C. Bruno & Son: Manhattan 3

Submitted by BConk on 3/21/2005

Where Purchased: Ebay

Year Purchased: 2005
Price Paid: $365 (bought USED) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

To my ears, this banjo has a wonderful sound - LOUD, louder than my Wildwood Troubadour and it sounds great when played hard and fast. But it also sounds great when played softly. It reminds me more of the sound of the tubaphone ring in my Wildwood Troubadour but clearer, fuller and with slightly more sustain. I love the sounds I'm getting out of this banjo.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

I had a bit of work to do on the banjo when I got it off of Ebay.Total takedown and clean, polish, oil etc. I tossed the mylar head it had and made a new calfskin head for it, made a bone pip for the 5th string and filed the sharp tang ends down along the side of the neck. I had to shim the neck with a piece of piano key ivory to get the action just right. I put a Moon L 5/8" bridge on it, installed a vintage wire type armrest, left the Elite tailpiece on it and now it plays like butter and sings like a bird. I'll give my own set up a 10 'coz the banjo's just how I like it now.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

This banjo is gorgeous - it has MOP inlays of crescent moons and stars on the peghead and an ornate crown MOP inlay above the nut on the peghead that is mirrored just below the nut in the fretboard - stars, dots, crescent moons and a ornate design at the 12th fret fill it out very nicely. I put vintage nut colored ivoroid knobs on the 5 Star Planet tuners and it looks brilliant!
The neck finish color is throwing me off a bit but I think it has a walnut neck - ebony fretboard, nut and peghead overlay and a fully spun over nickel-clad maple rim that's painted gloss black on the inside - as is the dowel.This is truly one beautiful banjo

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

This banjo has lasted 100 years or more so far - I've no reason to think it's going to die anytime soon.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

N/A

Customer Service: not rated

Components

The neck is very comfortable and has survived steel strings without bowing even though it is a one piece neck and has no truss rod. The banjo has a good weight and heft to it and a robust rim. It has a relatively robust tension hoop and 24 hooks. Some of the inlays are the tightest I've seen yet with virtually no fill visible despite being hand cut. The tone ring is very cool.Known as a James Morrison Patent Tone Ring - it is a chrome plated steel tube (of about 1/2" in diameter tubing) with two 1/2 inch vertical posts brazed into it. These posts key into holes drilled through the nickel cladding of the top of the rim to keep the hoop in place and aligned. This is needed because the tone hoop is supported by numerous dome headed nails that are driven in every 3/4" or so all the way around the rim top. This gives the rim slightly more than 2 1/2" of height and makes the hoop sit raised off the rim top so it can really ring. And it does just that.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I got this beauty on Ebay where it was listed as a "REMO Weatherking banjo" The picture was so poor that I couldn't tell what it was exactly - but I suspected it was nice so I took the leap of faith and hit the BUY IT NOW button. I'm VERY glad I did. It's irreplaceable so if I lost it or if it was damaged beyond repair, I'd be heartbroken. I truly love it. It's just the right weight, it has just the right tone, just the right look, just the right feel, all the other banjos I own have been getting a vacation in their cases for the past few weeks since I've gotten this one singing again.

Overall Rating: 10

Harmony: Reso-Tone Long Neck

Submitted by BConk on 2/25/2005

Where Purchased: Bernunzio's

Year Purchased: 2005
Price Paid: Don't Remember (bought USED) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

I'm pretty well amazed at how nice this banjo sounds - considering what it's made of. It has a nice "folksy" tone, reasonable volume. Without a capo it has a deep earthy tone - but I like the sound better once it's capoed even if only at the first fret. Since I put it back together, it's become one of my favorite playing banjos even though I have several other banjos including much more expensive banjos. Truth be told, I most often play it with the capo at the 3rd fret - but that's pretty much par for the course with long necks from what I understand.

Sound Rating: 6

Setup

Set up is still in progress, it was an "AS IS" basket case when I bought it from Bernunzio's. I stretched a new calfskin head on it; put on new cheapo- guitar style tuners; a new geared 5th string peg; replaced the missing 5th string nut w/ a railroad spike; and replaced the original tailpiece with an old style Waverly which I have cranked down about halfway now. I first put on a 5/8 Moon bridge but the action was too low so I made a bridge out of split maple that's just shy of 3/4 inch high - perfect action for clawhammer now. I'll give her a high rating on set up 'coz I did it ;D

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

easy on the eyes??? ahem - not really, although it does have a certain utilitarian charm to it. The pot on this model is chrome plated (?) bakelite with 30 nickel plated hooks. The neck and round dowel stick are painted gloss black, the dyed pearwood (?) fingerboard has MOP dot inlays, brass frets and white paint binding. The calfskin head looks cool - ;)

Appearance Rating: 4

Reliability

It lasted this long (sort of) the plating on the bakelite is flaking off in several places, the tension hoop seems OK - pretty robust - more robust than a Goodtime, brazed and machined - not spot welded. the tuners had to be replaced - the neck has a slight twist down past the 5th fret that doesn't seem to matter at all for playing. The frets held up well - but I can't say how much use they've seen.

Reliability Rating: 5

Customer Service

Bernunzio's was easy to deal with - friendly. Of course I bought it "as is" so I can't really comment on their service too much

Customer Service: 9

Components

replacing the 5th string tuner was a given - old friction style, cheap and cranky - the nut is plastic. The pot is bakelite. The original head is one very thin piece of calfskin (mine was torn) the flesh hoop in it is not bigger in gauge than coat hanger wire and the tension hoop fit is sloppy so it can make for dicey times when you're stretching a new skin head on. I'd have gone with a beefier flesh hoop but for the hooks which are so close to the wall of the pot that even the wire hoop bends them out a bit. The tailpiece, as I recall, was a cheap one - it was broken so I tossed it right off.

Components Rating: 4

Overall Comments

If this banjo was stolen I'd laugh at the person who (hopefully) walked past the valuable banjos in my house to get to it. But I'd also miss it and look for another to fix up. I paid less then $100 for this one and I'd do that again no problemo - even more. My favorite things about this banjo are: The sound - it sounds great for a plastic banjo! The weight - it's a long neck that weighs less than 4 pounds! The playability (once you put a capo on the 3rd fret ;) it's a great practice - pick in the kitchen while supper's simmering kind of banjo- very easy and fun to play.
And the fact that it sounds as good as it does is fantastic, as far as I'm concerned . I'm glad it wasn't the banjo I started on when I was a kid in the 60's 'cause I probably wouldn't like this one as much as I do now if I had. Oh and did I mention it sounds good too? Revisited: I WAS a kid in the 60's but I didn't start playing banjos until early 2004 - just wanted to make that clear ;)

Overall Rating: 7

Saga: SS-10 Pony

Submitted by BConk on 2/10/2005

Where Purchased: Ebay

Year Purchased: 2005
Price Paid: Don't Remember (bought USED) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

This banjo surprised me with its sound - not too loud but a nice player's banjo. Being a "C" scale I suppose it's a little thin, but the bass is decent. Great sustain and a very bright tone - nice. It's got a fiberskyn head on it and I feel they subdue the tone quite a bit - I can only imagine how bright it would be with a weatherking head on it!

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

It came to me second hand and the former owner had installed a fiberskyn head. I'll swap that out for a Rennaissance head and change the stock bridge on it to a Moon - Other than that - the action is perfect, very easy to play. I like the stock No Knot tailpiece on it.
Revisited: this banjo is now set up with a Renaissance head and Nylgut strings and it sounds great.

Setup Rating: 8

Appearance

This is a very attractive banjo, the mahogany neck is stained a deep vintage color. The finish is a nice matte which makes for a very comfortable neck in particular and a nice look overall.
The peghead is glossy however, and that sets off the MOP star and crescent inlay and the lyric Saga script very nicely. The fingerboard is a nice piece of rosewood and is inlaid with (faux?) MOP position dots; a star at the 5th fret and a nice design at the 12th. 18 hooks hold down a reasonably robust notched and nickle plated tension hoop. The pot is solidly made with a least veneers of maple on the outside and with the bottom rim veneered in maple for a nice finishing touch. I'll revisit this after I've taken the head off to report on the construction of the rim.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

The hardware seems to be of reasonably high quality. The tuners are perhaps a little on the cheap side, but they operate more smoothly than those on a brand new Gold Tone that I have that cost significantly more than this banjo does even when new. The neck is very robust - but not to the point that it is club-like. It makes for a comfortable handful.
The finish looks like it will last forever.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

N/A

Customer Service: not rated

Components

Tuners - they are a little on the cheap side though they operate well. Assuming the ones on my banjo are stock (having no reason to assume otherwise) the string posts protrude too far from the surface of the peghead and that creates an angle for the strings that is too shallow from the nut to the tuner to be attractive (IMO) although this may be nothing more than an aesthetic consideration, the simple substitution of tuners would rectify this at the factory and make for a nicer product overall - (again, in my opinion)

Components Rating: 8

Overall Comments

Quite a nice banjo ESPECIALLY considering the money that one should expect to pay for it new. I think it compares very favorably with my Gold Tone Maple Mountain in most areas of concern such as quality and fit and finish and, in my opinion, beats it in the finish on the neck especially.

(revisited) I've taken the pot down to change over to a Renaissance head and found a robust rolled brass tone ring reasonably well fitted to the rim which is comprised of 11 layers of alternating maple and mahogany (? non-specific Asian hardwood that looks like luaun?) with outside veneers of maple - with the exception of purfling on the rim of the Gold Tone- the rim construction of this Saga looks nearly identical to that on my Gold Tone Maple Mountain - same lamination of maple with what looks like mahogany- same joints on the exterior veneer.

For apples to apples comparison in terms of price - I feel it should be compared to a Goodtime and, in my opinion, in many key regards - it beats the Goodtime hands down - especially in such niceties as the rosewood fretboard with inlaid side position markers, the rolled brass tone ring, the veneer trim cap on the rim, the notched tension hoop, the 18 bracket hooks, the planetary tuners, the scarph jointed (as opposed to finger jointed) peghead.........etc. To compare with the Goodtime as far as sound is concerned, I'd like to play the full scale SS10 but I've got a hunch it sounds better than the Goodtime.
I'd recommend this banjo to anyone that is looking for an attractive, easy to play and enjoy- travel or "C" scale open back, and by extension, assuming the full scale SS-10 is as nice - I'd recommend at least looking into one of them to anyone looking for an entry level open back banjo. I would not hesitate to plunk down the very reasonable cost to buy a new one should this one become lost and had I seen and played a full size SS-10 before I bought my Goodtime (my first banjo) I probably would have bought the Saga instead.

Overall Rating: 9

Wildwood: Troubadour

Submitted by BConk on 1/18/2005

Where Purchased: Ebay

Year Purchased: 205
Price Paid: Don't Remember (bought USED) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

I love the sound of this banjo. I had imagined what I'd consider the perfect tone for a banjo and as soon as I tuned this beauty up - I heard that tone. Rich and full with wonderful sustain but still plenty funky. I like to play it slowly to savor every note the spills out of it....am I drooling? yep

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

I have no idea who set this banjo up but it's perfect. The action is low and it plays like butter all the way up the neck. Barre chords are a dream.
I think I'll play it like it is for a few months before I monkey around with it...if at all.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

This banjo is gorgeous - blond maple with a rich warm color. Although it is pretty thoroughly decorated with abalone bird inlays on the ebony neck, an abalone torch on the ebony peghead overlay and marquetry purfling up both sides of the neck and all around the inside and outside of the block maple rim - the decoration is very tastefully done. The neck is 3 piece flamed maple with a pencil thin ebony center that is perfectly centered. All in all the neck reminds me very much of an old Rettberg and Lange Paramount Style A I had briefly - it looks fabulous...The whole banjo looks fabulous

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

The hardware seems to be of high quality and very serviceable. The finish is beautiful but looks pretty durable all the same. I have no idea how old this banjo is but it shows little signs of aging. It has the high quality look of a banjo that will be around a lot longer than I will.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

N/A

Customer Service: not rated

Components

a nice old style Wavery tailpiece came on it - I like it. It has a Tubaphone tone ring and what appears to be fibreskin head that looks very much like real calfskin head. I'm not sure if it's an older head but I am sure the newer Fibreskin heads that I've seen look nothing like this one. The tuners are very nice and have a solid feel to them yet are very easy to turn - they also hold very well.
The only thing I'd change if I had my 'druthers - I think it should have two coordinator rods.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

For the price I paid ? I think this banjo is a steal! I see they list at more than $1,700 which I'd think was worth it for a new one - but I also see they're available for around $1,300 which I'd consider a real bargain - If this one were lost or destroyed I wouldn't hesistate to get another.
I love it - it plays like a dream - like butter- the neck is slender yet wider than I'm used to and I love the way it feels in my hand. The finish gives the perfect combination of speed and grip and the sound is beautiful. I have a feeling my other banjos are going to be gathering dust for quite awhile now. This one's a keeper.

Overall Rating: 10

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