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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!

7080 reviews in the archive.

Bridges: dam spillway bridge

Submitted by AldoMarino on 4/20/2014

Where Purchased: Ebay

Overall Comments

I bought the three pack.  One of the lighter colored bridges, which I'm guessing is either the pine or the fir, WOW...it turned my modest old Japanese bottlecap into a real tone monster and cannon.  Amazing. 

Overall Rating: 10

Bridges: David Cunningham bridge

Submitted by AldoMarino on 4/5/2014

Where Purchased: DC Banjoworks

Overall Comments

Beautiful looking bridge and well worked, but most importantly is that this bridge sounds great.  I currently have them on an RK-35 and an old Alvarez Montana.  In both cases, good clear articulation, chiming bells at treble, good bass, very sensitive to attack, works well all over the neck.  Coudn't be more satisfied.  Truly a superior product.  Will these bridges be the ones to finally end my addiction to endlessly trying out different bridges?  For now, they have a home.  I'm experimenting on the other banjos just now.

FWIW, Dave seems to be a nice fellow.
 

Overall Rating: 10

Bridges: Arthur Hatfield Compensated bridge

Submitted by AldoMarino on 4/5/2014

Where Purchased: Banjo.cm

Overall Comments

Very disappointed.  I tried this out on two different banjos, in both cases the result was a flattened, deadened sound throughout the register.

Not just a little bit, but far inferior to both the Stew-Mac and the Grover Compensated bridges I own, both of which were far less expensive.

Could just be I got a turkey, a bad slice of wood, who knows, but I'm very disappointed in the one I purchased and cannot recommend that anyone else even try these out for size.

Overall Rating: 1

Bridges: Stew-Mac Compensated Bridge

Submitted by AldoMarino on 4/5/2014

Where Purchased: Stew-Mac

Overall Comments

It is a rare thing in this world that a product is comparable to products sold at 3 or 4 times it's price.  This is one of those rare thngs.

Good articulation, note separation, does help with tuning, excellent on the treble, maybe less so on the bass end, good volume.

 I own better bridges, but I have also paid far more for lesser bridges than these.  Overall, I prefer this bridge to the similar products by either Grover or Hatfield.

I doubt anyone is going to put these on super-high end banjos, but on a beginner or intermediate banjo these are probably a very inexpensive and nice upgrade.  Highly recommended.

Overall Rating: 9

Bridges: Sullivan Old Growth Bridge 5/8"

Submitted by AldoMarino on 4/5/2014

Where Purchased: Banjo. com

Overall Comments

Superior product.  Wonderful sound.  LOVES to be played right up close, getting that sharp Stanley tone.  Barks.  Bites.  Yes. Not cheap, but definitely worth a try.

Overall Rating: 10

Bridges: Sosebee Select Bridge

Submitted by AldoMarino on 4/5/2014

Where Purchased:

Overall Comments

My camping banjo is a Rover RB-25 which has a great neck and is indestructible.  I've always felt the sound was only decent at best, somewhat lacking in complexity and tone.  OK, it's a cheap banjo, and what can you expect.

I tried half a dozen different bridges on this old beater, some better than others, in what I perceived as a quest to tone down and mellow out this rig.

When I tried the Sosebee Select, the exact opposite happened.  I couldn't believe my ears.  It spiced it up, twanged it up, metaled it up, gave it a complexity and a voice that I never imagined this banjo was capable of.  None of the half dozen other bridges I've tried on this banjo, even came close to the dramatic improvement.

Seems strange to recommend such a nice bridge on such a modest banjo, but now I've got a cheap beater rig with a serious authoritative bluegrass voice.  Couldn't be happier.  Different bridges and different banjos all respond and interact differently and what works on one rig might not work on another..but for sure this bridge is staying on this banjo.

Overall Rating: 10

Bridges: Fitts bridge

Submitted by AldoMarino on 3/15/2014

Where Purchased:

Overall Comments

Ordered from Ebay, a 1/2 Red Maple top bridge.  Thin, with large feet.  I ended up leaving in an old Iida 225, in which it gave a noticeable improvement in tone, especially up the neck.  I'm a satisifed customer.

Overall Rating: 10

Rover: RB-25

Submitted by AldoMarino on 3/9/2014

Where Purchased: Yard Sale

Year Purchased: 2012
Price Paid: $75 ($US) (bought USED)

Sound

The voice on this instrument could best be described as very bright, pingy and twangy. Long sustain. There is not a lot of richness, complexity, or harmonics to it, not is it particularly sensitive to different attack. What is does, it can do fairly well. I'd note that this brightness and pingyness is good all up the neck, which is good.

Sound Rating: 7

Setup

Instrument was a basket case when purchased. I was able to get the action very low, using light gauge strings. No dead frets or buzzing. I'm afraid to use medium strings on this, as it would probably be unbearably bright. Anyhow, I'm not at all sure that setup-when-purchased means much.

Setup Rating: not rated

Appearance

Brownish orange finish, unevenly applied. Ugly duckling headstock. Dot inlays, Rover brand on headstock.

Appearance Rating: 2

Reliability

This banjo was purchased to go camping, get loaded into the hold on boats, etc. The composite rim will be dug up by some archaeologists 10,000 years from now, they will say ancient Americans invented the wheel or it was a religious icon. This banjo is simple, simple, simple. Give it some attention and our grandkids will either take it or sell it at a yard sale when your dead and gone.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Press 1 for Cantonese, 8 for English. Congratulations on purchasing Rover banjo at yod sale. You have made wise decision. Many year of good luck and happiness and properity.

Customer Service: not rated

Components

What do you want from a beater? The neck is short radius, easy to play. The fretwork, sometimes a problem on Chinese instruments, is well done and smooth. Got a geared fifth string tuner which is nice. Tuners are cheap but they work. Half of the time when people complain about tuners it's a noob who doesn't wrap and tie the string around the post properly. This thing is fine.

Components Rating: 6

Overall Comments

I've seen these listed for $250 new.  No WAY would I do that.  You can get a nice used Japanese instrument for that sort of coin.  But these things abound at yard sales and on Ebay.  I'm very satisfied with this purchase as a beater, traveler, and would recommend the same for a beginner.  I don't really WANT to like this instrument, but somehow I do like it.  For what it is , and what it's supposed to be, it does a good job of it.

Overall Rating: 7

Gold Tone: Cripple Creek CC-100R

Submitted by AldoMarino on 3/8/2014

Where Purchased: BanjpTeacher

Year Purchased: 2011
Price Paid: 400 ($US)

Sound

Bell like, chimney, not to twangy. Very pretty sound, very sensitive to attack. The sound is the high point of this instrument.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

It came wonderfully set up.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

This is a matter of personal preference, however, in my own eyes, the appearance of this instrument has not aged well. Maybe I just don't think banjos should be blone or butterscotch. The finish is very well done, but I simply don't care for the color scheme.

Appearance Rating: 2

Reliability

Appears to be well made. Haven't had any problems with it.

Reliability Rating: 8

Customer Service

Haven't had use this.

Customer Service: not rated

Components

What bothers me the most about this instrument is the neck. I find myself prefering short radius necks. The neck on this instrument is like playing an Ibanez Wizard guitar. Very wide radius...again, this is a matter of personal preferences. I'm sure some people would love this neck, but not me.

In fairness, in general, the banjo is well made, IMO.

Components Rating: 8

Overall Comments

Good sound.  I actually wish I liked this banjo better than I do, but the neck and the color scheme together makes me tend to reach for other instruments.

Overall Rating: 6

Iida: 225

Submitted by AldoMarino on 3/7/2014

Where Purchased: Used

Year Purchased: 2014
Price Paid: Don't Remember (bought USED) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

I installed a StewMac round tone hoop,finally ended up leaving a Fitts bridge on it (for now, after trying out a few others) and GHS medium gauge steel strings. The volume is average, and the voice is rich, boomy, and deep, as opposed to jangly and twangy. Lots of sustain. Tuned the drum using the quarter and straitedge trick.

Sound Rating: 8

Setup

Setup was a basket case when purchased. I was able to get the action to medium low with no dead frets or buzzing with the medium gauge strings. Tuning the drum was a pain because the resonator is attached to the flange with 8 tiny and 4 medium screws. The neck is a low radius type.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

Really good looking, IMO, for a cheaper banjo, but not particularly fancy or decorative. An orangish finish, tending towards red, deep and evenly applied. The hardware finish is fine after almost forty years. Dot inlays on a very dense fretboard, probably rosewood. Neat and attractive inlay on headstock.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

This banjo is almost 20 years old, still in great shape. Speaks for itself. Guitar tuners on headstock...meh...seen better, but seen worse. I will at some point replace the 5th string tuner with a geared tuner, however. Overall impression is that this piece is well built.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

No clue

Customer Service: 5

Components

It has neat little hooks to attach the strap. Nice hardwood pot and resonator. Overall, very good quality for a lesser banjo.

Components Rating: 8

Overall Comments

II must note that this review is for a 1900's era Iida 225 of KOREAN construction, not the 1970's era Japanese built with the same name.  While the original Japanese Iida 225 is an Aluminum bottlecap banjo, these Korean ones have a laminate wood pot.  I'm very happy with this purchase.  I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this to anyone looking for a relatively inexpensive banjo, unless one was dead set on getting one with a very bright and jangly voicing.  It is definitely worth the extra money for a tone hoop and an improved bridge.  It will never be a MasterClone, but what you can have it a real decent sounding, VERY nice playing, well made banjo which should blow away most beginner banjos on the new market today. So, do you rate as in comparison with the entire world of banjos, or rate it relative to other inexpensive banjos?  I'll give it a 9, with the understanding that it is being compared with other inexpensive banjos.  An excellent and well made value for the money. 

Overall Rating: 9

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