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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!

6986 reviews in the archive.

Alvarez: Minstel 4289 5 Star (Wreath Inlay)

Submitted by buckholler on 3/10/2019

Where Purchased: Personal sale

Year Purchased: 2019
Price Paid: 300 ($US) (bought USED)

Sound

Playing BG, and after a Remo new head (had a clear head on it) fresh strings and presto tailpiece it sounds amazing, for what it is

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

The previous owner didn’t know any thing about banjos. She had a handmade pine stick for a bridge. I did a fresh set up, bridge upgrade. I’m really impressed with the coordinator rod setup that allows the neck angle to be moved up or down by the Alvarez designed lower rod. I was able to easily adjust the neck angle to suit my playing and bridge height without recutting the heel.

Setup Rating: 2

Appearance

Gloss finish, chrome plated hardwear. The only thing I don’t like are the huge tuners (60’s Thunderbird style) and the weird inlay on the resonator.

Appearance Rating: 8

Reliability

Over all for being about a 40 year old banjo it’s held up well. Light pitting on some of the hardwear but it’s to be expected.

Reliability Rating: 8

Customer Service

Company no longer in Business

Customer Service: 1

Components

I didn’t totally strip down the banjo so I don’t know what the ring is made of (Brass or Potmetal). This company used both brass and pot metal over the years. But up to pitch she sounds amazing

Components Rating: 8

Overall Comments

Overall Rating: 9

Tailpieces: Fults 1934 Tailpiece

Submitted by buckholler on 11/3/2014

Where Purchased: Used from a BHO member

Overall Comments

I'm very impressed with this tailpiece.  I have the 1934 with the F20 mount.  Mine was purchased originally  in April 2006.  It was hardly used and in excellent shape ( I was told it was used for 2 months).  I put it on my Rigel "Buck Hollow" banjo.  The banjo was nice but missed that crack of a maple banjo.  I had fiddled with most everything to get the sound I wanted but missed some snap and volume.  

Once I put the 1934 tailpiece on it got a whole lot louder, and had more sustain.  Its been settling for a week and is sounding better.  The sustain had lessened, but the volume has stayed.  And it definitely has more crack to it.  Like others said its not cheap, I was looking at $109 for this tailpiece and with a 4 year old and a new born that wasn't going to happen anytime soon.  I was able to get it used for $50 shipped.  

I really like it and will keep it on that banjo.  I may save up and get another one for my RK36. 

Mr. Fults has made a rock solid tailpiece with impeccable engineering and craftsmanship. 

Overall Rating: 10

Tuners: GOTOH D tuners

Submitted by buckholler on 11/3/2014

Where Purchased: used from a BHO member

Overall Comments

I bought a set of Gotoh D tuners from a member about 1 year ago.  I never used them and finally put them on my banjo.  They work great.  I did take off the plastic/rubber washer and put a set of Keith leather washers on.  I spoke with Bill Keith and he said that they were made so close to his design, that he would service them if I ever needed.  They work slick and keep tune well.  If you run across a set they are nice and very comparable to Keith tuners.

I wish they still made them. 

Overall Rating: 9

Heads: AMB pre epa head

Submitted by buckholler on 5/27/2014

Where Purchased: AMB

Overall Comments

I'm really impressed with this head.  I ordered 2 cause they were so affordable.  I prefer this head over the 5 stars I've been using.  The head I mounted is just about settled and sounding like I want it to.  The banjo has more power and pop than it did with the 5 star and I also tried a Taiwan Weather King head, which was a small improvement, but the AMB Pre-EPA head is so much better.  

If I ever need a new head I'm going with another AMB Pre-EPA head.  

Also AMB was top notch on the customer service and got them in 2 days.  

Overall Rating: 9

Bridges: Hatfield Compensated Bridge

Submitted by buckholler on 1/23/2014

Where Purchased: Hatfield Banjos

Overall Comments

I read many good things about Author Hatfield bridges, so I got one for a new banjo I was having custom made.  The banjo sounded a bit thin on tone and didn't have good bass response, so I figured it was that it was new and needed to settle in.  I've used the bridge for about 1 year and the banjo never came around.  I played with all sorts or set-up stuff to get it to open up.  I recently tried another brand name bridge and it had all that I was looking for.  I kept the Hatfield for another day.  I just recently built a RK36 from parts with a Tenn 20 tone ring, and tried this bridge again.  It sounded better than the last banjo it was on but still seemed to be lacking in the bass, which is what the Tenn 20 rings are known for.  I weighted the bridge and it was 2.1 grams, and everything seem good on the set-up.   I tried another bridge and bang, it has awsome tone.  So it boils down to the bridge.    

So I guess this bridge is just lacking.  Its the only Hatfield bridge I've ever owned.  And I've read many glowing stories about these bridges so take my review with a grain of salt.  

Overall Rating: 8

Bridges: Snuffy Smith "2 Generation"

Submitted by buckholler on 1/2/2014

Where Purchased: Mike Smith

Overall Comments

Like everyone else these new Snuffy Smith Bridges are top notch.  I put one on my custom Rigel banjo and it made quite a difference.  I had a Hatfield bridge on that banjo and it was a little weak on the base and sounded thin no matter how I set it up.  I tried a S/S  bridge and its got a little growl now, which is very cool.  Th ebase response is better than before.   I didn't change any of the set up so I know it was the bridge.  I've had it for over a month and the banjo still has that growl so I'm sure it was the different bridge that caused it.  Its defiantly a keeper.

You won't go wrong getting one of these new Snuffy Smith bridges.  I have a RK36 that I may just have to get one of these bridges for.  We'll see.

 

 

Overall Rating: 10

Picks: Blue Chip Thumb Pick

Submitted by buckholler on 6/11/2013

Where Purchased: BHO member

Overall Comments

I have a Med. JD Blue Chip Thumb pick. Its a great fit and I don't seem to catch my thumb pick anymore like I did with my other picks. Its very comfortable defiantly would recommend it to anyone. I've been playing it for 2 months and it shows no wear. And I even got it lightly used. If it ever broke I'd get another. They are a tad expensive but everything banjo is expensive.

Overall Rating: 10

Picks: Sammy Shelor Stainless Steel

Submitted by buckholler on 6/11/2013

Where Purchased: BHO member

Overall Comments

I just got a set of Sammy Shelor SS finger picks. They were very easy to form and they play really nice. A lot better than the old Pat. Pending Dunlops I had been playing. I've worn them for almost 2 hours now and the picks have not pinched or dug in at all. They are very comfortable. A great addition to my Blue Chip thumb pick.

Overall Rating: 9

RIGEL: Buck Hollow

Submitted by buckholler on 11/8/2012

Where Purchased: From Rigel

Year Purchased: 2012
Price Paid: 2100 ($US)

Sound

This banjo has a great over all tone, and a full sound. Much brighter than other banjos I've played. It has a lot more sustain than I'm used to.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

The set up was done very well. He did a better job than I would have.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

It has a Hearts and Flowers inlay on both the finger board and peg head. I had a custom name block installed. Its got a nice even flame on the neck and resonator. Its got a nice dark brown color and I like it alot. The only issue I see is the finger board was just a tad off center. The finger board was a CNC board and it was just a bit off true and we had to square it up thus knocking it off a bit.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

It has mostly all Prucha parts except the RK flange. All the hardwear seems very well built and sound. The finish is gloss and seems it will hold up well. Seems dependable.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

The owner Pete is a very very nice guy and very easy to work with.

Customer Service: 9

Components

Like noted before it has Prucha parts and a has a Cooperman 3 ply Hard/Rock Maple Rim. Gotoch tuners, SS frets, etc. I picked out most of the parts.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

Its a great banjo I'm very pleased with it.

Overall Rating: 9

Bridges: Virgil Lawson Camo-Frog Compensated bridge

Submitted by buckholler on 8/28/2012

Where Purchased: From Virgil Lawson

Overall Comments

I will admit I really wanted this bridge because it was very cool looking. When I got it it was very well made and looked great. Once I put it on my banjo all I can say is WOW!!!! Its soo much clearer sounding, great tone, and the added volume is very nice. My old bridge was ok but this bridge is over the top. Virgil made me a compensated bridge (.656 height, 2 gram weight) My banjo was set up for 5/8 bridge, the only tweaking I had to do was a 1/4 turn of the tailpiece to get it up to speed. Everything else was good, even with the new height. Thanks Virgil for a great bridge.

Overall Rating: 10

Pete Langdell Jeffersonville VT

Submitted by buckholler on 5/16/2012

Overall Comments

Pete Langdell the maker of Rigel Mandolins and Basses, is a great master Luthier. Their is not a lot of folks to work on banjos in my area (Northwest Vermont). But Pete, is a very skilled at his craft and is a true gentleman. If you need a luthier in Northern NY or Vermont, you should consider Pete. He's not cheap but the work he does is of the highest quality. If you need any work done on any string instrument you should call. (802) 644-2233

Pete took a 70's era Japanese banjo and made a power house out of it. Pete put on a new rim, 2 piece flange and tone ring for me. He also fixed the neck by adding some wood, and correcting how the neck attaches to the pot assembly. The old neck had only 1 lag screw and the bottom was a set screw. Pete filled all the wood and re drilled and put in proper coordinating rods and lags.

After many small changes, and taking the banjo apart many times to get it just right, he hit it out of the park. He did a great final set-up. I could not be any happier with the work I had done.

Overall Rating: 10

Mutes: Ultimate Banjo Mute

Submitted by buckholler on 12/2/2011

Where Purchased: Amazon

Overall Comments

I love this mute. Its so easy to use. I would recommend it to everyone. Plus its very reasonably priced ($14). A must if you like to practice at night and have sleeping kids and/or spouse in the house. Its a good peace keeper. I'd rate it a 9-10.

Overall Rating: 9

Crestline: CIT7900

Submitted by buckholler on 12/2/2011

Where Purchased: Traded

Year Purchased: 2011
Price Paid: 0.00 ($US) (bought USED)

Sound

I'm new to playing the banjo, but its a decent one. Its has a full, loud sound. Hasn't been played in many years from prior owner. So I'm working on bringing it back to life

Sound Rating: 8

Setup

It was set up nice from the prior owner. Needs some parts due to wear. The action was where it should be. The neck is a tad narrow, but very playable.

Setup Rating: 8

Appearance

I like the looks. It's a Masterclone style. It has the flying eagle inlay, two piece Gibson style flange. Clear head. It looked like crap when I got it, but a little semichrome on the nickle plating and it cleaned up nice. The plating on the tone ring is bubbling in spots. Only a couple things I do not care for. The gold eagles painted on the resonator (front and back) drive me crazy. It's obvious that its not a high end banjo so the wood could be better.

Appearance Rating: 7

Reliability

It stays in tune and is very playable. Its about 30-35 years old so the hardware is holding up nice for an import. Looks well played and the finish is holding up well.

Reliability Rating: 8

Customer Service

Crestline was an import from the 70's and early 80's from what I'm told. Not much for information and I'm sure their is no warranty.

Customer Service: 1

Components

The banjo is about 30-35 years old so it has wear on the frets, but it still plays nice. I don't care for the tailpiece. I would like to get a Presto or Fult tailpiece. It has ok tuners, they are like a 1:2 ratio or something like that I'd like 1:4 or 1:6 ratio. Needs a new head and bridge. But all in all it very serviceable and plays nice.

Components Rating: 7

Overall Comments

Hey I gave up a $200 broken guitar for this banjo and I feel that I made out very well. I've had estimates ranging from $400-600 in its current condition.

Overall Rating: 8

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