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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!

6904 reviews in the archive.

Second Life Banjo--Carl Arcand: 11" Cherry Tubaphone (Rickard ring)

Submitted by frailin on 2/22/2018

Where Purchased: From Builder

Year Purchased: 2017
Price Paid: 2200 ($US)

Sound

It's everything I like about the tubaphone sound and more... crisp, clean and loud! What's not to love? And Carl used a slightly deeper pot which enhances the bass response.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Action was perfect... as is nut spacing. I did change out the Kershner tailpiece to a no-knot. I also tried a Fielding because it's just what I do. :)

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Absolutely breath-taking. Carl's choice of wood as well as fit and finish are as close to flawless as physically possible. The guy is indeed an artist.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

If I'm ever in a bar fight, this banjo will be my choice. Besides being bullet proof, I'm pretty sure its mass would stop a charging rhino. It's seriously well-made.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Carl was incredibly attentive to my opinions and thoughts. Couldn't have asked for a better listener or partner in banjo building. He's one of the best of the best.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Nothing to see here. Aside from me tweaking the tailpiece (because it's what I do), all is as it should be.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

Love this ax.  

Overall Rating: 10

Cases (Soft, Gig Bags): Reunion Blues CONTINENTAL Gig Bag

Submitted by frailin on 8/15/2011

Where Purchased: Reunion Blues

Overall Comments

Wowie! This is what I've been waiting for. Now my banjos are receiving the MAXIMUM protection possible. For a more detailed discussion (with pics), see this thread: http://www.banjohangout.org/topic/213442

Overall Rating: 10

Bridges: Half-moon

Submitted by frailin on 1/21/2008

Where Purchased: Zepp Music

Overall Comments

Dunno WHY these bridges work as they do, but I've tried them on ALL my open-back banjos (3 Chuck Lee tubaphones, a Vega Whyte Laydie, a Lo Gordon custom). In every case, the sound improved! The bridges produce a fuller, more robust tone that is rich in both treble and bass. In several cases, the bridges brought out more bass.

Next I started sampling with bridge weights (medium and heavy). It proved a way to "fine adjust" the amount of sound that was transfered from the strings to the banjo head.

I've played many, many bridges. The half-moons have consistently made my fine sounding banjos sound even better.

Thank you, Donald (Zepp) for introducing them to me!

Craig (frailin)

Overall Rating: 10

Chuck Lee: Tubaphone model (Bill Rickard tone ring)

Submitted by frailin on 1/21/2008

Where Purchased: Zepp Music, Banjo.com, Ebay

Year Purchased: 2004
Price Paid: 2000 ($US) (bought USED)

Sound

I'm commenting on 3 Chuck Lee tubaphone banjos that were purchased over a 2 year period. There were 3 others that I've since sold. The 3 that I've kept ("Tattletale, Bela" and "Red Clay") are my "players."

All these banjos contain Bill Rickard tubaphone tone rings. Two are nickel plated brass. One is unplated brass (Tattletale, my favorite). All Rickard rings have a brilliant, clear, full, loud, rich voice. Two of the three have a characteristic "twang" that comes out on the bass side when plucked hard. The character of these voices is what makes these banjos so unique. They're nothing short of amazing.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

In all cases, yes. Chuck is the best banjo luthier living today. He not only knows how to build banjos, but to set them up as well. His necks have a consistent sensitive that I've yet to find even close to being duplicated anywhere (and I've owned some stunning instruments). The only reason I'm giving the banjos a "9" in setup is by upgrading the standard bridge to a half-moon, it would have been perfect out of the box.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

Chuck's love for wood shows. His choice pieces are stunning. The finish is smooth, deep, exemplary. Although I personally prefer plain Janes (with warm woods), Chuck's optional inlay artwork is excellent.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

All of Chuck's banjos are as solid as the rock of Gibralter. Extremely durable and well-engineered.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

You couldn't find a nicer guy that wants you to be any happier.

Customer Service: 10

Components

The standard bridge could be replaced with a half-moon... something more representative (and enhancing) of the quality of the banjo.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

I paid from $1,800 to $2,400 each for the banjos. They're a bargain at any price. In fact, given their voice, playability and looks, I consider my 3 players, priceless.

I'm thrilled to be living in a time where such gorgeous yet practical instruments are being produced. Lucky me!

Thanks, Chuck!

Craig (frailin) Evans

Overall Rating: 10

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