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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!

6942 reviews in the archive.

Rover: RB-40

Submitted by GrahamHawker on 6/30/2018

Where Purchased: Amazon UK

Year Purchased: 2018
Price Paid: £116 (British Pounds) (bought USED) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

I guess this proves to me that the Saga aluminium rim with integral tone ring is very different from those cheap and fairly nasty cheap aluminium rings found on cheap banjos. It only has a little of the metallic harshness of these cheaper rims which is easily removed through the setup. I like mellowish open backs and this is surprisingly mellow, certainly not over bright, and also has good volume and a the sound has depth and richness. Not so much as, for instance my Whyte Ladie but as good as my 2ply, rolled brass tone ring banjo and better than my multiply rim with rolled brass tone ring banjos.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

From Amazon so not setup. Saga's quality control could be better. The neck was lose due to an untightened top nut. This came in a soft case which hadn't protected the screw in the back of the tailpiece as this was broken off, probably in the factory by dropping it on the bottom whilst in the bag where I found the rest of the broken screw. I replaced this, attached the bridge and tuned it up and it was fine. Head was well tightened and the action is fine. This is one banjo where stuffing with a sock makes all the difference. If removes any trace of the slight harsh overtones.

Setup Rating: 5

Appearance

It looks like a banjo with an aluminium rim and basic dot inlay. I don't want to mark this but it appears I have too.

Appearance Rating: 5

Reliability

Everything seems OK. I don't see that anything will break or wear out anytime soon. Saga parts may not be the best but they seem good enough and I've had no trouble with them. I don't want to mark this either because only time will tell so as I have to I'll make a guess.

Reliability Rating: 8

Customer Service

Not applicable

Customer Service: 5

Components

Saga aluminium rim as used in the Saga SS3, Rover RB-45 and Rover RB-35, Saga Waverley tailpiece, which I like, Mahogany neck, which is quite chunky, Saga planetary tuners, notched tension hoop and high crown head. the slanted supplied bridge is OK but I replaced it with my preferred thicker bridge. This also comes with a soft case, a Superior C-267 Trailpak which is cheap but functional.

Components Rating: 8

Overall Comments

This is really the open back version of the Rover RB-45/Saga SS3. Take off the flange and resonator and you end up with a Rover RB-40.

For the price I paid this is quite a bargain. I suppose it competes with the multiply rim, rolled brass tone ring banjos. It's better than any of these I've played.

The sock stuffing really helps. It's a reasonably rich sound and fairly mellow, perhaps surprisingly mellow. These Rover/Saga banjos seem to get overlooked in the recommendations for starter banjos but they deserve consideration. Perhaps not at full price but they are often discounted. I'm very happy considering the price I paid and if it was £300 ($400) then it would be a very sensible option.

Overall Rating: 9

Gretsch: Dixie Deluxe G5941

Submitted by GrahamHawker on 9/6/2016

Where Purchased: Promenade Music

Year Purchased: 2016
Price Paid: 386 (British Pounds) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Stating the obvious it sounds like a banjo with a 3 ply but fairly thin rim with Wythe Laydie tone ring, renaissance head and no knot tail piece. Reasonanable bright but no over bright, crisp and quite focussed. I would also describe it as rich and well rounded and quite plucky with decent volume. It's exactly what I had hoped for.

I find it's a really good idea (saw David Holt mention this) to wind some lace or even card through the strings between the bridge and tailpiece. Reduces unwanted overtones really well.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Not setup but only had to tighten a couple of hooks and install the bridge. Once done the action is good and the intonation excellent. Seems to have come out of the factory in a good state.

Setup Rating: not rated

Appearance

Orangy amber colour, capped rim, nice restrained inlays. Looks fine.

Appearance Rating: 8

Reliability

Too early to say but everything looks quite solid and well made.

Reliability Rating: not rated

Customer Service

Promenade delivered quickly but no dealings with customer service. No idea what Gretsch are like.

Customer Service: not rated

Components

Planetary tuners, scooped neck, decent looking hooks and notched tension ring, 3 ply maple rim with cap seems to be 7/16ths inch, whyte laydye tone ring and renaissance head. The no knot tailpiece is one of those without notches on the pegs for proper no knotting for nylon strings but straight pegs for loop end stell strings. Bridge is standard 5/8ths inch. I will be putting on a slightly thicker bridge.

Everything looks good, specs for the price are very good.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

Gretsch are rebadging here but again they are choosing very well specced banjos to rebadge and putting their own stamp on things. My guess here is that this is almost the same as the Goldtone WL250 or perhaps the very similar MM150. For some reason they have also discontinued this model which is a shame because it's a great banjo often available around the £400 mark. Even £550, which it is often sold at, is a decent price. There are still a few around as I write.

I do have another whyte lady banjo - the cheaper Pilgrim Shady Grove VPB007 which I really like but the Gretsch has a richer fuller sound. The main difference between the two is the rim.

In conclusion this banjo is an absolute winner. It sounds great and plays great. For £400 it's a stunner.

Overall Rating: 10

Gretsch: G9455 Dixie Special

Submitted by GrahamHawker on 11/14/2015

Where Purchased: Thomann

Year Purchased: 2015
Price Paid: 345 (British Pounds) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

I tend to prefer a fairly mellow and a fairly focused sound. However I'm moving away from too mellow. This is fairly bright but not over bright. The combination of rim, tone ring, head and tailpiece is making a rather lovely sound. It's what I expected and I'm very pleased. I also don't feel any need to make to many changes beyond using my preferred bridge to the one supplied.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

This didn't come setup. There wasn't much to do. As usual some brackets needed tightening up and the bridge needed to be put on. Once done it was fine. No problems with the action.

Setup Rating: 7

Appearance

The amber colour is nice. The 2 ply maple rim looks really nice.

Appearance Rating: 8

Reliability

Looks fine for a banjo in this price range but as usual only time will tell. Components look solid so I expect it will last.

Reliability Rating: not rated

Customer Service

Thomann have a good reputation but I've never dealt with there customer service.

Customer Service: not rated

Components

2 ply maple rim, rolled brass tone ring, notched tension hoop, solid brackets, no knot tail peice, frailing scoop, geared planetary tuners, renassaince head. It also comes with decent strings medium gauge which are usable instead of requiring replacement. The bridge looks like a standard cheap bridge that comes with all these banjos. I like a thicker bridge for a mellower sound.

The lovely rim and decent brackets are a stand out feature. The pot is the same as the Recording King RK-OT25. Everything is the same except a rolled brass tone ring has been added.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

We tend to expect rebadging of Asian banjos especially from guitar companies. Have no doubt that Gretsch are rebadging but they are doing more. Here they aren't rebadging a standard factory model and putting their specified neck on it. Here they are rebadging a Recording King RK-OT25 (2 ply rim version) and adding a rolled brass tone ring and a different head.

I have a Recording King O25 but with the OT's 2 ply rim. In comparison the tone ring adds a bit of volume and sustain. The Recording King sounds really nice and the Gretsch just sounds a bit nicer, a bit fuller and bit richer. I'd say in this price range both are fine banjos and hard to beat so overall I'm giving it a ten.

 

Overall Rating: 10

Luna: Celtic 5-String Banjo

Submitted by GrahamHawker on 8/28/2015

Where Purchased: Amazon UK

Year Purchased: 2015
Price Paid: 110 (British Pounds) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

While I bought this to use the mahogany neck on another mahogany pot it's ended up back together. I didn't expect a great deal. Initially it sounds quite thin and a bit hollow but I've made a few changes which has helped. It's quite mellow and still a bit thin compared to my other cheapish banjos with tone rings but it's actually OK.

Sound Rating: 6

Setup

I don't expect banjos from Asia to come setup but this one was. I had to tighten the brackets a bit but the bridge was correctly positioned and the intonation very good and it sounded fine even up the neck. This is perhaps the most impressive thing about this banjo.

I put on a thicker bridge, better tailpiece and although I'm not one for sock stuffing this has helped a lot.

Setup Rating: 8

Appearance

It looks Ok with the orangy finish and the etched resonator is a bit different. It jas the standard nice Luna fret markers. The finish wasn't perfect and a bit rough around the rim base which also had a small blob of glue on it.

Appearance Rating: 7

Reliability

No more or less than the better cheap banjos. Except for the tailpiece certainly better than the really cheap banjos. Hard to judge really.

Reliability Rating: not rated

Customer Service

Not applicable. Amazon has fairly good customer service and Luna have responded to my questions about their guitars quickly.

Customer Service: not rated

Components

It's a bit of mix between those really cheap banjos with those horrible cheap tailpieces and no tone ring and the cheaper decent Asain banjos. It has the standard brackets used on these. The rim is half inch multiply mahogany. It has a single co-ordinator rod and a second neck connection so not like the really cheap banjos with a screw through the heel bottom. The neck is really quite nice and the best feature.

The guitar style tuners are geared and not bad at all. The head is clear so you can see the etched resonator. This sounds OK. I'll have to try a standard frosted head to get a better idea.

I put on a spare Waverley tailpiece and thicker bridge.

Components Rating: 6

Overall Comments

This is the same banjo as the Dean Backwoods 2 without the pickup and a different paint job. Luna are part of the Dean group. The standard price is way too high. It's a lot to pay for an etched resonator. I'd say for UK prices £150-200 would be OK for an OK beginners banjo. It sounds OK as an open back. Lots of OKs.

For the full price this would score quite low. the competition beats it easily. If you find it cheap and want a cheap banjo for learning I'd give it a 6 assuming it always comes setup as well as mine. With a sock it sounds OK with the resonator on. It doesn't sound like bluegrass banjo which is not a surprise. I prefer all my other banjos which are all open backs but quite like giving this a bash.

Overall Rating: 6

Pilgrim: Shady Grove VPB003

Submitted by GrahamHawker on 7/24/2015

Where Purchased: Gear4Music

Year Purchased: 2015
Price Paid: 250 (British Pounds) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Walnut and fyberskyn should be mellow and that's what it is. That's what I wanted. As it came it was quite nice but perhaps a little bit lacking in tone, a bit thin. I have made one main change (more of that later) and now I'm a bit happier and will it's quite melodious and harmonious it's still on the thin side. Head needs to be quite tight to avoid a hollow sound.

Sound Rating: 8

Setup

The banjo didn't come setup. The strings were shocking, the head needed tightening and the bridge put on. None of this is unusual from this type of shop. Once that was all done and the strings replaced the action is good.

Setup Rating: 3

Appearance

It's all walnut with a matt finish. It looks fine unless you're after blingy inlays.

Appearance Rating: 8

Reliability

Seems fine as is typical of these type of banjos. The weak point seems to be the brackets.

Reliability Rating: 8

Customer Service

Gear4Music have very good customer service although I haven't contacted them about this banjo. I feel they need to check and understand what's in the boxes they shift a bit more though.

Customer Service: 9

Components

Walnut multi ply rim and neck, frailing scoop, planetary tuners, fyberskyn head, compensated bridge, no knot tailpiece, 24 brackets. Some of the brackets are prone to turning off the tension hoop instead of tightening properly. This is not unusual but perhaps these are more prone than others I have. The no knot is a bit rough.

This banjo used to come with two co-ordinating rods and a cap around the rim bottom and better bracket nuts. But now it has one co-ordinator road plus a second neck joint and cheaper bracket nuts and no cap. Clearly it's been downgraded but no ones letting on about that.

The tone ring is, or was, odd. Instead of the typical basic rolled brass ring it is even smaller, slightly thinner and bevelled at the top. Is this on purpose or another downgrade? I think downgrade. I did feel there was something a bit lacking in tone especially up the neck. I put on a more typical rolled brass tone ring. This needed quite a lot of work with sandpaper but the tone has improved. How much? While it removed much of the dissapointment I had in the sound it's still a bit thin. Changing the fyberskyn head to a standard frosted helps but it's then brighter a still on the thin side. I find fyberskyn sucks the tone.

There is one minor finishing problem. The cutaway on the neck to provide room for the head has not been done perfectly at the bottom.

Components Rating: 6

Overall Comments

This is another Dae Won/Rally redesign, where many banjos come from. It is or at least was, before the downgrade, the Rally (Delta Blue) Bohemian 3 with a fyberskin head instead of Renaissance . However you can see this model by Ozark as the 2113G or Ashbury as the AB85 but these still seem to have two co-ordinator rods. I wonder if they have a different tone ring or whether the factory has altered the configuration. The Pilgrim version is often cheaper although the Ozark can be found at competitive prices.

In the end however much I fiddle with the setup the thinness of the sound is apparent especially compared to slightly better, slightly more expensive banjos.So it's OK but ultimately a bit disappointing.

Overall Rating: 6

Fender: Rustler 6 String Guitar Banjo

Submitted by GrahamHawker on 4/17/2015

Where Purchased: Thomann

Year Purchased: 2015
Price Paid: 205 (British ponds) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

One banjo is never enough and neither is one banjo guitar. At least I can give some comparisons with my Goldtone Cripple Creek banjo guitar.

Unlike the Goldtone, which I play and love as an open back, this sounds OK with the resonator, probably helped by the flange. I'd say it compares to cheaper intermeadiate flanged banjos.

However I've already converted it to an open back. I guess with a mahogany rim it should be a bit mellower than the Goldtone and it is indeed a bit mellower. It's tricky to compare because I've put on a strings with lighter bass strings. I do really like the sound. It's mellow with no nasty overtones which is exactly what I like.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

It didn't come setup. I had to install the bridge. Most things were tight but one of the co-ordinator rod nuts was lose as was the tailpiece screw. It didn't need any adjustments to make it playable and the action is fine.

Setup Rating: 8

Appearance

Nothing fancy. Nice red stained mahogany rim, resonator and neck.

Appearance Rating: 8

Reliability

This is an obvious step up from cheapo wood rim guitar banjos. It's probably fair to put it on a similar level to the Goldtone Cripple Creek guitar banjo. Perhaps the tailpiece doesn't look quite so solid. I guess time will tell but there's nothing obvious to worry about. No score because time will tell. One of the bracket nuts is a little bit dodgy.

Reliability Rating: not rated

Customer Service

Thomann are a known decent company but I've never had to contact them beyond ordering. The one thing that is sure is that they pack their instruments well - double solid boxed.

Customer Service: not rated

Components

The rim is just under half inch mutiply mahogany. It has a similar basic brass hoop tone ring like the Goldtone. As mentioned the tailpiece seems OK but not quite as sturdy as the Goldtone perhaps. Interestingly there seems to be two versions - one with a curved end to the tailpiece and one with a straight end. I have the straight end.

The tension hoop is notched which I think is good thing and there are 24 brackets. It has dual co-ordinator rods and a typical flange for cheaper imtermeadiate banjos. The resonator is deeper than the Goldtone. The bridge is the same.

The supplied strings look like standard bronze wound acoustic guitar strings. They sound OK although the G string broke of it's own accord and soon after the E string went when tuning. I've replaced them with my preferred nickel wound strings.

It's also quite heavy.

Components Rating: 8

Overall Comments

Fender don't make banjos so this is a rebadged banjo guitar from one of the big banjo factories in China. I'm sure it's from Dae Won and almost exactly the same as the Rally DBJ-65G. This doesn't get rebadged too often. In Europe  I've seen these as a Tonewood DB-656 and the Tennessee Premium 6 String. These are more expensive but the only noticeable difference is the tailpiece, although as mentioned the Rustler is often pictured with the same tailpiece. As I write it appears Fender have discontinued this model.

If I had wanted a reasonable cheaper intermediate banjo guitar with resonator I would have been happy. As an open back I'm very happy. It will interesting to hear the comparison with my Goldtone once the new strings have calmed down a little perhaps with the same string gauge. The impression at the moment is there's not a great deal of difference. It's just a bit mellower. As an open back in this price range the Goldtone is hard to beat so getting close to that is a good sign. I'd choose the Goldtone because of its rim but I wouldn't be disappointed with the Fender.

There is a video on Youtube demoing the Fender but it sounds quite poor mainly due to the excess of hard guitar style strumming with a plectrum. This is no way to make guitar banjos sound good and not all representative of this banjo.

 

Overall Rating: 9

Recording King: RK-O25 Madison open back

Submitted by GrahamHawker on 5/14/2014

Where Purchased: Thomann

Year Purchased: 2014
Price Paid: 230 (British pounds) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

I'd checked out some clips of this banjo and I expected to get a fairly bright sounding open back and that's what I got. I do prefer mellow but this was such a great price I couldn't resist. I made a couple of alterations (see below) and though it's fairly bright it sounds really nice and not at all harsh.

Sound Rating: 8

Setup

It wasn't setup and the bridge needed to be put on. This is what was expected. besides a couple of brackets everything seemed fairly tight. Action is really good. The strings were lights and as with other banjos I've bought not great at producing a good sound. As usual I added some mediums and it improved considerably. To tone down the brightness a bit I swapped the bridge for a wider one which helped as well. The supplied bridge is OK and this is just my preference. I didn't like the Presto tailpiece cover as that was keen on vibrating and once removed it sounded better still. I intend to experiment with some different tailpieces to see which gets the best results. The Presto is fine but I like to fiddle.

I don't like the arm rest style and as with other banjos I play it without the arm rest.

Setup Rating: 7

Appearance

The satin brown maple look is really nice.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

The hardware seems better quality than my other banjos. The brackets are more substaintial and the deep tension ring has slots for the brackets which seems a much more sensible arrangement. I would not expect any problems with reliability.

Reliability Rating: 8

Customer Service

Thomann delivered from Germany for free and it came very well packed. They have a good reputation but I've never had to contact them. They probably deserve points for selling these Recording Kings at exceptionally cheap prices.

Customer Service: not rated

Components

(edit - it's supposed to have a 3/4 inch 3 ply rim but mine came with the 2ply 1/2inch rim used in the OT version) It has a lovely 1/2 inch maple rim, decent brackets, planetary tuners, Presto tailpiece and standard white frosted head. It doesn't have a tone ring but I doubt you would notice. I don't think you lose anything at all incomparison those banjos with small tone rings typical of this price range. It doesn't have the woody mellow sound that perhaps might be expected.

Components Rating: 8

Overall Comments

I'm really happy with this banjo. I must admit to buying it on a whim because of the price. There's no point me buying another cheap mellow banjo and the contrast is good to have. If you do want mellow at a good price there are other options but for a cheap banjo I doubt you'll beat the quality on offer here. The old time version, which is still a very good price at Thomann at the moment is another good option. I'm not sure why they are so cheap in comparison prices in the USA but I'm glad I took advantage.

Overall Rating: 9

Pilgrim: Jubilee VPB002

Submitted by GrahamHawker on 4/11/2014

Where Purchased: Gear4Music

Year Purchased: 2014
Price Paid: 181 (British Pounds) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Edit - now I've played more banjos with various components I can give a better idea of the sound. It's not going to match banjos with better rims and tone rings. It's quite bright and with the multiply maple rim somewhat lacking in depth. However it's not bad at all, way better than all those really basic cheap banjos and with the changes I made (see later) a decent enough tone at the cheaper end of decent banjos.

Sound Rating: 8

Setup

The banjo wasn't set up and there were a couple of problems. The basis of this brand is that the specs and some design elements were put together by Paul Tebbut for Vintage which is the brand name of JHS who are music distributers. They use the same factory as many other brands but unlike many don't just order factory standard models with their name on the headstock.

The main problem was that someone had strung the Waveley tailpiece incorrectly with the loop end strings fed through the the holes for ball end strings and underneath the tailpiece. So i had to replace them with a spare set. The strings provided were light gauge which didn't work well. The other problem was that on one of the tuners the screw was so loose it just slipped. I fixed that as well. Otherwise it was fine.

After putting in the bridge, which was supplied unattached, the setup was fine with very good action.

Setup Rating: 5

Appearance

It looks really nice with the typical light maple appearance of rim and neck. Nothing fancy and simple dot markers on the neck. I prefer simple.

Appearance Rating: 8

Reliability

I'm sure it will be fine. These are not the cheapest available components and I've had no problem on my other two banjos with similar/same components.

Reliability Rating: 8

Customer Service

Gear4music were helpful about the strings and are sending me a replacement set.

Customer Service: 8

Components

This comes with a 7/16ths inch rim with dual coordinator rods, Waverley tailpiece, 18 brackets, brass tone ring and planetary tuners. The rim appears to be 5 ply with a veneer on the outer sides. The tone ring wasn't the best finished and I replaced it a better finished one. Overall though it's a decent combination components especially at this price.

Components Rating: 8

Overall Comments

You can buy very similar banjos from the same factory. The most obvious model is the Ozark 2109G, but the name on the headstock could be Ashbury, Countryman or Heartwood and they may be given the California model name as in the factory Rally brand. The main difference here is the planeteary tuners and the price (normally £216 as I write and around £200-250 for similar models). These aren't massively different from the Goldtone CC100 as far as I can see.

I've only had this banjo a very short time but I am really happy with it. Perhaps more happy with the sound than the more expensive model with the white laydie tone ring I also have. It's quite easy to produce a really bad banjo for less than £200 or even £250 but whether it's this one or one of the similar models you can also produce something very decent. Normally this type of banjo is described as one for a beginner but I don't see why it shouldn't be a long term main banjo if your happy with the sound. Here it is exactly as I want it and I can see myself sticking with it for a very long time. Time though will tell.

Edit: clearly banjo aquisition syndrome got the better of me and I have a number of better specced and sounding banjos. However I still have this and like giving it a whirl. In the end I but on a renaissance head and no knot tailpiece. The head tones down the brightness and it has a pleasing sound.

Overall Rating: 9

Gold Tone: Cripple Creek Banjitar (CC-Banjitar)

Submitted by GrahamHawker on 9/19/2013

Where Purchased: Eagle Music Shop

Year Purchased: 2013
Price Paid: 375 (British Pounds) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

I pluck and pick and drone and even hammer and I've found that banjo guitars suit my style even more than guitars. This has a full mellow sound that is more dark than bright and suits me down to the ground. I always play open back and I'm not convinced the resonator improves the sound in any way. I particularly like the sound of the CC-100 banjo, perhaps more than more expensive Goldtone banjos, and this is comparable.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

It came perfectly setup with an excellent action, perfect intonation and I've made no changes.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

It has the dark maple appearance of the Cripple Creek range and looks very nice.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

I've read that the Goldtone straightline tailpiece can warp but this 6 string version looks very solid to me. No obvious weaknesses. It stays in tune really well.

Reliability Rating: 8

Customer Service

Eagle Music Shop have a good reputation and my dealings with them have been good. The setup confirms that they know what they are doing. I haven't tested returns yet so I'm not going to provide a score here.

Customer Service: not rated

Components

This is the cheap Goldtone banjo guitar and seems to be a CC-100 pot with it's dual co-ordinator rods (or is it a a CC-50 with an extra co-ordinator rod, as the CC-100 is light maple in colour, or perhaps a CC-OT pot which matches colour and co-ordinator rods but with a different head) with a guitar neck. The description does state that the rim is 1/2 inch but it's actually 7/16ths. I guess considering the price the components are cheaper than the more expensive Goldtone Banjitars but it's a big step up from cheap banjo guitars and the components are very decent.

The Goldtone banjo guitar string set is what might be described as top heavy so the bass strings are thicker than is usually found on banjo guitars and sound much better. With other banjo guitars I've replaced the A string with a much thinner string for droning but I've not been tempted to do this here. The A and E drone quite nicely.

Components Rating: 8

Overall Comments

I'm going to be very happy with this banjo guitar for a long time. I can't see any reason to go for a more expensive banjo guitar.

Overall Rating: 10

Tanglewood: TWB 18 M6

Submitted by GrahamHawker on 8/19/2013

Where Purchased: Nevada Music

Year Purchased: 2013
Price Paid: 206 (British Pounds) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

I bought this banjo guitar to replace my even cheaper aluminium potted banjo guitar once I'd had enough of the harsh metallic sound. This had a nicer woodier sound. I tended to play it without the resonator and I would describe the sound as thin and quiet and hollow. So nicer but not that nice.

Sound Rating: 3

Setup

It wasn't set up but once the bridge was positioned it had a very good action. The brackets were fairly loose and later i realised the screws holding the brackets were also loose.

Setup Rating: 2

Appearance

It looked quite nice - a light glossy maple colour.

Appearance Rating: 8

Reliability

There was a minor flaw in the rim with slight de-lamination. I decided to just glue it and clamp it. Not sure about the long term.

Reliability Rating: not rated

Customer Service

I did return this banjo after 6 months (see components). Nevada Music were very good about this and Tanglewood responded to my query very promptly and changed their website descriptions very quickly. Very impressed with both companies.

Customer Service: 10

Components

The 5 ply rim is 3/8th inch wide. It's also not very deep (not as deep as the heel). The Tanglewood description said it had a tone ring. When I took it apart there was no tone ring. Tanglewood apologised for this error and changed their description as well as the description for the other banjos in this range so that's a good outcome. But I think that together this probably explains the weak sound. As it wasn't as described I asked to return it and Nevada Music were very good about this - I'd had it 6 months. They do describe it as having 18 brackets but it has 24.

When I took the head off some of the brackets could only be removed by loosening the screw holding on the shoe. As mentioned the screws were fairly loose. The impression is cheap components poorly put together. I do have a Tanglewood 5 string banjo from the previous cheaper Tanglewood range. Admittedly that range was a bit more expensive but the quality is so much better. Here even the resonator fixing has been downgraded. Reattaching the resonator was not as simple as it should be. The other thing about the glossy resonator is that it would squeak when rubbing against clothes.

Components Rating: 3

Overall Comments

I think I expected something of similar quality to my Tanglewood 5 string banjo but to get the price price down further the compromise has been too much. I expect the 5 string version (TWB 18 M5) to sound quite similar. The TWB 24 M5 does have an alloy tone ring and might be better. Most shops are still using the wrong description though for this banjo guitar and the TWB 18 M5.

All other banjo guitars around this price have metal pots so it's the only wood option. I'm not sure any of them are a good option. I now have a Goldtone Cripple Creek Banjitar which is light years ahead (and £150 more). Otherwise you could look for a remaining Tanglewood TB24 DLX 6 from the previous series. Tanglewood do produce some decent stuff but this one is a bit of a failure.

Overall Rating: 2

Pilgrim: Shady Grove VPB007

Submitted by GrahamHawker on 8/10/2013

Where Purchased: Reidys

Year Purchased: 2013
Price Paid: 299 (British Pounds) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

I like a fairly mellow open back sound and in it's original combination you get the brightness of the whyte laydie tone ring competing with the mellowness from the fyberskyn head and no knot tailiece. However the provided light gauge strings produced a thin fizzy sound and so it needs some medium gauge strings. With these it sounds better but I made other changes to get it right. In the end I ended up with a brighter banjo than expected but a good one.

Edit: after buying an even mellower banjo (the Pilgrim VPB002) I imagine that the White Laydie tone ring imparts some brightness but the sound is still very nice.

Sound Rating: 8

Setup

The banjo wasn't set up except as it came from the factory. The bridge was not attached. It was easy to get the bridge in the right position and the action is really good. The head tension seemed OK although a few of the brackets needed tightening a little.

Setup Rating: 6

Appearance

Very nice light maple finish with no flaws.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

I haven't had this long but I'm sure it will be OK.

Reliability Rating: not rated

Customer Service

Quick delivery as expected but no other dealings with the Reidys.

Customer Service: not rated

Components

This has a half inch maple rim which is made of five plys (or is it seven - two thin, light coloured, veneer like plys can be seen when the tone ring is removed). It has a white laydie tone ring, fiberskin head, compensated bridge, planetary tuners, no knot tailpiece and vega style arm rest. The only thing I'm not sure about is some of the brackets as for a couple turning the bolts turned the whole bracket.

Edit: I worked out the problem with the brackets. Without the washer the hook wouldn't tighten because the thread in the nut was too short. The problem was not with the hooks or nut though but the bracket placement. So it would get just tight enough, I guess, but further tightening wasn't possible and the hook would turn. The bracket was a bit too close to the head to use easily with the hooks and nuts provided. I replaced the nuts with some from a different banjo and use the ones from this banjo on that one and it's now fine, as is the other banjo, and there's much better control over head tightening and indeed the sound has improved again and I like it even more. Is mine a one off? Who knows. In the end though I put on a notched tension ring with round hooks as this always feels more solid than flat hooks especially on these cheaper banjos.

I did find it strange that they couldn't put on some sensible strings. The ones provided really let it down but that's easily fixed. I initially put on a really cheap set I happened to have lying around, one of which had been used for a while, and even these improved things enormously.

Components Rating: 7

Overall Comments

£299 for a decent open back with whyte laydie tone ring among other decent components is fairly hard to beat.

The supplied light strings aren't up to the job and I'm not sure why, with everything else, they don't supply something which do it justice so it sounds good out of the box.

Edit: once I sorted out the bracket/hooks I'm even happier. I guess the only question is why was there a problem here in the first place?

Second edit: I replaced the fyberskyn head with a renaissance and that really bought the banjo alive. It took some time but I have found fyberskyn takes away too much tone and even if other heads are less mellow the sound, while brighter, is far more preferable.

Overall Rating: 9

Tanglewood: TB18DLX-G

Submitted by GrahamHawker on 7/25/2013

Where Purchased: Digital Village

Year Purchased: 2012
Price Paid: 149 (British Pounds) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

I like a mellow open back sound so the resonator came off straight away. I'm happy with the sound especially considering the price. I'd say the overtones are a little bit harsh and to me it sounds better when using a capo or with a sock stuffed between the single co-ordinator rod and head. I do think of buying something more expensive but often think I really like this sound so why bother. My guess is that this works better as an open back rather than a bluegrass resonator.

Sound Rating: 7

Setup

Action was fine and it was almost in tune but it wasn't setup by the shop so I had to adjust the bridge position and tighten the brackets

Setup Rating: 5

Appearance

Bought as a second but no flaws and looks really quite nice. It's exactly the same colour as Goldtone Cripple Creek. It has 3/8 inch 5 ply maple rim, maple neck and mahogany resonator.

Appearance Rating: 8

Reliability

Not that convinced by the tuners (I had to replace the fifth string tuner) but otherwise seems OK to me.

Reliability Rating: 7

Customer Service

Nothing to say.

Customer Service: not rated

Components

I have a Goldtone Cripple Creek banjitar and there are clear similarities with some of the components. The resonator is exactly the same as are the brackets, arm rest and resonator fixings. The tailpiece was one of those really cheap ones so I put on a not very expensive Waverley tailpiece. I thought I'd try a different bridge (a Grover Minstrel) but the standard bridge has wider feet and produces a mellower sound which I prefer.

I had problems with the fifth string tuner when a string got caught in the mechanism when being changed so I had to replace that.

Components Rating: 7

Overall Comments

I guess this was a £230 banjo bought for £150 so no complaints from me. This is part of the model range before the latest. I have the latest banjo guitar model which is disappointing and with their cheapest range (TWB18 M) Tanglewood seems to have downgraded a lot of things. The DLX range was certainly better and I'm quite happy with this model especially once I put a sock in it. I'd buy it again for £150 but at £230 it's soon out gunned by the Cripple Creek CC50.

Overall Rating: 7

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