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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!

7079 reviews in the archive.

Bridges: Ron Stewart Bridge

Submitted by Irvine on 4/5/2010

Where Purchased: Warren Yates

Overall Comments

I have tried a bunch of bridges over the last 30 years and this one is by far the best out of the box - period. The quality was outstanding! My Stelling took on a whole new identity after putting this bridge on. My banjo went from very good to unbelievable. Wow - very impressive work.

Overall Rating: 10

Stelling: Golden Cross

Submitted by Irvine on 5/8/2009

Where Purchased: 12th Fret

Year Purchased: 2009
Price Paid: N/A ($US) (bought USED)

Sound

Great sounding Banjo. This is a 1979 Golden Cross/Archtop/Top-tension with custom engraving, 2 Keith tuners and all walnut construction. It's a cannon with unsurpassed highs and a great 4th string. How can an archtop sound this good? Only Jeff Stelling can answer that question.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Set up was good when I got it with no buzzes, low string height and correct bridge placement. Grant knows what he is doing. Of course, I am a tinkerer so although it sounded really good right out of the box, I did my usually and took the whole thing apart, cleaned everything and put it all back together. I noticed that it had a high crown head installed which made no sense to me - not Grant's fault - it was a used banjo sold on consignment. Whoever owned this before me must have used the wrong size head. I changed it to a heavy 1970's low crown I had lying around and tightened it down to 93 on my drum dial. It went from great to fantastic just like that! I checked the old head before removing it and it was at 85 and the head bead was flush against the neck stop and couldn't go any further. The low crown gave me plenty of room to spare and 93 was easy to attain.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Great workmanship. I can't see any filler near the inlays. I used some Stewart MacDonald #4 swirl removed to rub out the finish and it looks as good as new even though it's 30 years old. There were 2 tiny scratches on the resonator and those are almost gone now. Custom engraving on all the parts. The armrest and tailpiece are particularly well done with hand engraving that has an almost a 3D look. The flange, tone ring and tension hoop have some hand engraving but mostly are stamped using a hammer and punch type of tool. I used never dull to get the parts clean and wow, what a difference a little elbow grease makes. I'll bet the metal was never cleaned before. The oxidation is gone!! Hardware is better than top notch and it's all brass including the flange. This is a very heavy banjo. How heavy you say - try 17.4 pounds. I might need a wider strap.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Hardware, finish, sound, appearance, etc. are all second to none. There is no reason I would ever need a backup.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

12th fret was great to deal with. Grant was awesome and did a fine job on the setup. I would not hesitate to buy from them again. Fedex on the other hand really sucked. It took 9 days to get the banjo. Yes, it did get held up in customs for a few days but, Fedex Ground was awfully slow and updates on the website were not even accurate. I finally had to go pick it up myself at one of their locations. The rating is for 12th Fret. Fedex gets a 2.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Everything on this Banjo is top notch. The Keith tuners are 30 years old and still work great - very smooth. I found the archtop tone ring to be very interesting on this banjo. I was always curious about the design of Stelling archtop tone rings and took it off to see what it looked like. They have a very unusual shape because of the wedge fit system. The bottom edge of this tone ring is so sharp, I could slice a piece of paper with it. Really great design and hard to machine I'll bet. No wonder it's a $150 option. I wonder if anyone has ever published a profile view of these tone rings anywhere? Some others might be interested.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

Best looking and sounding banjo that I have ever seen or played, period.

Overall Rating: 10

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