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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!

7101 reviews in the archive.

Vance: iOTA 11" koa

Submitted by davidppp on 10/7/2020

Where Purchased: from Colin Vance

Year Purchased: 2020
Price Paid: MSRP ($US)


It's a light (4.8 lb) openback, with 25 1/2" scale and 11" D. The sound is both bright and woody. You can chose the balance. And it can pop if desired.

Sound Rating: 10


It arrived perfectly set up. Several of the design elements are ingenious, but tinkering with them is self-evident. (There's certainly no need as yet.)

Setup Rating: 10


Both the design and fabrication are outstanding, and much is unique. The ad photos caught my eye as just something I'd love. In person, it's even better.

Appearance Rating: 10


There's nothing shoddy here. I can't even imagine possible trouble.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Communication and shipping were prompt, friendly, and first-rate.

Customer Service: 10


Nothing is cheap or weak. Several aspects are unique to Vance.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

By my standards, the banjo is relatively small and light, looks and feels beautiful, and is just what I wanted in my present circumstances.  (With very, very few exceptions, I'm the only one playing and listening.)

Overall Rating: 10

Mutes: Mike's Banjo Mute

Submitted by davidppp on 6/9/2013

Where Purchased: from Mike

Overall Comments

Much, much quieter? Absolutely! But more than that. Other commercial and home-made mutes I've tried either don't mute nearly as much or do so by muffling the sound. What makes Mike's mute different are two other things that happen. You get a huge sustain: would-be loud short sounds turn into quiet sustained sounds. And much of the high frequency component of the un-muted tone gets shifted toward lower frequencies. Both render the banjo much more socially acceptable to the anti-banjo crowd. Everyone's happier, but you also get a delightful, new tone to your instrument --- and you might even appreciate its un-muted sound all the more.

Overall Rating: 10

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