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!
7100 reviews in the archive.
Where Purchased: Guitar Center (used)
Year Purchased: 2012
Price Paid: $399 ($US) (bought USED)
I play primarily Scruggs style but dabble in some other strumming/folk sounds. After some setup from a local luthier the banjo is settling in with a rich, growly, sound; bright when I want it, soft and warm when I need it. Overall, very responsive up and down the neck. Haven't experimented much with amplifying it but so far the SM-57 shows it is a bit high-powered. I am looking into a condenser mic.
Sound Rating: 8
I was experiencing a bit of fret buzz across the neck. A luthier adjusted the truss rod, raised the bridge, dressed and crowned the frets and she was good to go. A special problem with the low 5th string (apparently problematic with many middle to low end banjos) required welding a lift to the 5th fret which solved the problem. At present, I am extremely happy with the sound and, if anything, I am adjusting to the weight of this girl and her booming volume compared to my Gold Tone CC100R.
Setup Rating: 7
The only issue I have is that this is honestly a modern Asian (China) constructed instrument that has a lot of positive and a few cheap attributes. For example, the felt padding between the neck and pot was insufficient and not glued well. Beyond that, the rest of the appointments of the instrument were what I expected for what I paid. The ultimate end product (overall construction, build, playability) however, have exceeded my expectations.
Appearance Rating: 9
Overall happy with the durability of the hardware. She will be my primary workhorse until a $2000+ banjo lands in my lap. But if I need to put the label "trustworthy" on her, than the shoe fits.
Reliability Rating: 8
Guitar Center was very helpful with the purchase. They don't seem to have in-house luthiers (especially for banjos) so I was expecting some post-purchase setup. Still worth the overall cost as I think the sound I am getting from her could give much more expensive banjos a run for the money.
Customer Service: 9
Tuners are pretty cheap and that will be one of my next upgrades. Beyond that, I can't see messing with anything else unless I discover a more intriguing tailpiece. She sounds good to me and that's all that matters.
Components Rating: 8
My sole yardstick on evaluating this banjo so far has been my own feel and what other's opinions of the sound have revealed. She is heavy, loud, provides excellent tone (to me), and feels responsive all over the fretboard. The reactions of my bandmates have been extremely positive (except for the loud part, where I am working to gain a finer grasp of the dynamics, etc.). I will recommend this banjo to anyone who is budget minded yet needs a decent stage-ready instrument. I'll feel confident to take her on stage and perform admirably for me.
Overall Rating: 9
'Castles In The Air' 4 hrs
'Hit or Miss Breakdown' 5 hrs